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October 20, 2014

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‘Fabulous’ sign garners historic designation

Officials announce Las Vegas icon is making its way to National Register

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Justin M. Bowen

County and state officials announced on Thursday that earlier this month, the 50-year-old “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign had been added to the National Register of Historic Places. From left to right: Clark County Manager Virgina Valentine, Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid, Nevada Historic Preservation Officer Ron James and YESCO Vice President and General Manager John Williams.

Las Vegas sign named historic landmark

Clark County and state officials announced Thursday that earlier this month, the 50-year-old Launch slideshow »

Las Vegas Sign

Legendary Las Vegas neon sign designer Betty Willis, known for her world-famous "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign, talks about how she created her illustrious masterpiece and the significance of each of the sign's various symbols.

The “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign is now officially etched into history.

Clark County officials announced today that the famous Las Vegas landmark has been accepted into the National Register of Historic Places.

The sign, which has welcomed visitors since 1959, was inducted into the register on May 1 after months of research and paperwork by Clark County officials. A plaque was placed at the sign today, marking its place in the registry.

“The sign is one of the few landmarks on the Strip that has lasted 50 years,” Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid said. “In fact, I think it’s one of the few things in this valley, other than the people, that is over 50 years (old).”

The sign reads “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada” on the front and “Come Back Soon” on the back.

Placing the sign on the National Register of Historic Places, which is part of the National Park Service, was a joint effort between state and county officials to honor the sign during Clark County’s centennial year.

In May 1959, the Clark County Commission contracted Western Neon for $4,000 to build a sign to welcome visitors to Las Vegas. The sign was designed by Las Vegas native Betty Whitehead Willis, one of the few female designers during the time. The design belongs to the Exaggerated Modern/Googie category.

Today, the sign is owned by the Young Electric Sign Company.

“They call the Strip the ‘Jewel of the Desert,’” Reid said. “If the Strip is the ‘Jewel of the Desert,’ the sign is the crown jewel.”

“I’d like to let you in on a little secret -- I’m not sure the National Park Service has recovered from the idea of having this sign registered on the Register of Historic Places,” Ron James, Nevada historic preservation officer said. “There is nothing quite like it on the register but it’s about time that we all get in step.”

The sign itself has seen very few changes in the past 50 years, except for some energy renovations made by NV Energy. In 2007, the county installed artificial turf underneath the sign and in January, 12 parking spaces where added to accommodate tourists.

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