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September 20, 2014

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Historic Moulin Rouge tower demolished

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The Moulin Rouge opened May 24, 1955. The Moulin Rouge was the first fully integrated hotel in Las Vegas, attracting prominent performers such as Pearl Bailey and Louie Armstrong — who were allowed to perform on the Strip but were banned from gambling or staying at hotels there.

Moulin Rouge - a look back

The Moulin Rouge casino in the 1950's. Launch slideshow »

Workers on Thursday demolished the tower of the first racially integrated casino in Las Vegas, one day after city officials turned down an appeal of its owners' demolition permit.

The white tower of the Moulin Rouge hotel-casino, which opened in 1955 and played host to headliners including Sammy Davis Jr., Nat "King" Cole and Frank Sinatra, was pulled down by cables after initial attempts failed and the structure resisted.

"To them, it's blight. To me, it's history," said Pat Hershwitzky, secretary for a group trying to preserve as much of the Moulin Rouge and its history as possible.

The Moulin Rouge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hershwitzky said she planned to ask city officials and site owners Olympic Coast Investment Inc. to save as much of what's left of the site as possible.

She said her group would try to find a new place to house the casino's remaining artifacts.

The casino made its mark in Sin City gambling history despite only staying open six months in the northwest part of downtown Las Vegas.

In 1960, it hosted a meeting where hotel owners agreed to desegregate the Las Vegas Strip, allowing the first black guests. The meeting came the night before a civil rights march, when Nevada was still known as the Mississippi of the West.

After that, the hotel rooms were converted into apartments, and the property fell into disrepair over the next 40 years. A 2003 fire hurt three people, displaced more than 100 residents and destroyed the main casino building, but the building's marquee remained.

The casino sign has been preserved at the city's Neon Museum.

A fire last year burned through a wing of vacant rooms one day after Olympic Coast took ownership through foreclosure.

Its former owners, Moulin Rouge Properties, had bought the property for $12.1 million and planned a $200 million property with historical reminders of the Moulin Rouge of decades ago, but went bankrupt in 2008.

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