Las Vegas News Bureau
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 | 5 p.m.
- Fabulous Downtown
- Through April; Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-midnight; Saturday, 9 a.m.-midnight; Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Emergency Arts, 520 Fremont St.
It’s a lovely day Downtown, and a crowd of locals has gathered outside the new Penney’s department store. Around the corner and down the tree-lined street are the familiar sidewalks of small-town America, circa 1950. Any moment now, a whistling Norman Rockwell will round the bend with his easel, sit down and render the scene with all the innocence of the imagined past. Except that this cliché is out of its predictable element, or so it seems, when you place it in geographical context: Fremont Street, Las Vegas.
For all the talk of the small town that Las Vegas is, and most certainly was, the 1952 photo of Sixth and Fremont nails it perfectly, a rare gem gleaming from the promotional images of poolside bathing beauties, celebrities and neon. The photo of the women in dresses and overcoats, looking in the store windows, is part of Fabulous Downtown, a photo exhibit inside Emergency Arts, commemorating the Las Vegas News Bureau’s 65th anniversary. This is one of several News Bureau exhibits taking place around the city this year.
Curator Brian “Paco” Alvarez compiled Fabulous from images he ran across while sifting through News Bureau photographs. They exist, he says, because the bureau was once part of the Chamber of Commerce. Among them are shots of Modern Cleaners, the Hotpoint Appliance store (now the Funk House), the Fifth Street School and even the interior of Penney’s. Also included are stories of early Downtown “renaissance” efforts and the sudden death of Fremont Street as a business and shopping district thanks to the Boulevard Mall.
“It shows a snapshot of Las Vegas people aren’t used to seeing,” says Alvarez, a Las Vegas native. “The piece de resistance is the Penney’s building. When I ran across that, I started crying.”