Published Wednesday, March 21, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Updated Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012 | 8:49 p.m.
President Barack Obama took time out of his presidential debate preparation Tuesday to make his way to the Hoover Dam, the engineering marvel of the 1930s credited with paving the way for the building of the American Southwest.
Most presidents who have visited Southern Nevada have spent their time in Las Vegas or its immediate suburbs, giving the national landmark just outside of nearby Boulder City scant attention. With his visit, Obama became the fourth chief executive -- and first sitting president since FDR -- to visit Hoover Dam, according to the Boulder City Museum and Historical Association’s archives.
Here’s a look at those presidents:
As secretary of commerce in the 1920s, Hoover was involved in the early planning stages of the Boulder Dam Project, as the Hoover Dam was then known. During his term as secretary and his four years in office as the country’s 31st president, Hoover made many visits to the Boulder City area, which was founded as a federal company town in the early 1930s, according to the Bureau of Reclamation’s website.
On a cross-country trip from California to Washington in November 1932, shortly after losing the presidential election to Franklin Roosevelt, Hoover made a brief detour to gaze upon the construction site of the dam that would one day bear his name.
“"The waters of this great river, instead of being wasted in the sea, will now be brought into use by man,” Hoover was quoted as saying during the visit, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. “Civilization advances with the practical application of knowledge in such structures as the one being built here.”
Hoover’s successor as president, Roosevelt, was given the honor of dedicating the dam when it officially opened in 1935.
At the time of the dedication, the dam was still referred to as the Boulder Dam, owing to Hoover’s unpopularity during the height of the Great Depression.
Thousands gathered at the dam to watch Roosevelt speak on Sept. 30, and afterwards, the presidential caravan made its way to Mount Charleston to visit another federally funded project.
“This is an engineering victory of the first order,” Roosevelt said during his speech at the dam. “(It’s) another great achievement of American resourcefulness, American skill and determination.”
The country’s 34th president, Eisenhower visited the Hoover Dam in 1952 in the lead up to being elected to his first term in office. A military general at the time, a smattering of news articles exist in the Boulder City Museum and Historical Association’s archives, but different articles report Eisenhower’s visit on different dates, and his exact reason for touring the dam isn’t clear.
Obama wasn’t scheduled to visit the dam during his 2012 stay in Henderson, where he was preparing for campaign debates against GOP nominee Mitt Romney. But when Obama found out from an aide the dam was just 15 minutes from his hotel, the president decided he had to "check it out." "It's spectacular and I've never seen it before," Obama told the accompanying press corps. "I didn't realize it was so close by."