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Historic Las Vegas Hotels Give a Look Into City’s Past

Exterior of the First Hotel in Las Vegas, Hotel Nevada

Las Vegas has a rich history, and the hotels here play a huge role in the city’s past. Old Las Vegas hotels each have their own story. These hotels have seen the ups and downs of the economy, the rise and fall of famous entertainers, and so much more. Historic Las Vegas hotels and casinos have built this city and shaped it into the iconic destination we know today. Read on to discover more about the rich past of historic Las Vegas hotels, and book a room at one to see the history for yourself!

 

The History of Old Las Vegas Hotels

 

Golden Gate | Opened January 1906 | Still Operating 

Golden Gate Hotel & Casino first opened its doors back in 1906 at One Fremont Street. It initially opened as the Hotel Nevada and became the Golden Gate in 1955. Known as the first Las Vegas hotel, this historic landmark has catered to the public throughout the 20th century, as far back in time as the Prohibition Era, and through the Roaring 20s. Even in 2020, this landmark spot in downtown Las Vegas still holds its vintage character, a symbolic piece of Las Vegas’ history.

 

Frontier | Opened October 1942 | Closed July 2007

Best known as the second resort built on the Las Vegas Strip along Highway 91, a wealthy man and his nephew chose to build a hotel and casino called the “Last Frontier,” the last stop from California before El Rancho. The resort hosted Elvis Presley’s first Vegas appearance and the final performance of The Supremes with Diana Ross as their lead singer. Over the years, ownership passed from person to person until July of 2007, when the hotel finally closed its doors after 65 years. 

 

Vintage Photo of the Flamingo Hotel in Las VegasSource: vintagelasvegas.com

 

Flamingo | Opened December 1946 | Still Operating

In 1946 when the Flamingo Hotel and Casino first opened, it was the first to embody “modern” architecture as most other casinos boasted an Old West Theme. Unique and eye-catching, what was created to be the most luxurious hotel in the world sported asymmetrical architecture and bird-inspired designs. The Flamingo was known for hosting some of the hottest entertainment in Las Vegas in the 40s and 50s and continues to bring world-class performers today. 

 

Desert Inn | Opened April 1950 | Closed August 2000

San Diego bar and hotel operator Wilbur Clark opened the Desert Inn in Las Vegas in April of 1950 after lots of financial struggles. The Miami-style Bermuda pink and green resort was the first to utilize rising and falling fountains set to recorded music and illuminated by various colored lights. Purchased in 2000 by Steve Wynn, he tore the hotel down because it failed to show a profit, but kept and renovated the Desert Inn’s original golf course.  

 

Binion’s | Opened August 1951 | Still Operating

Hotel Apache was originally opened in 1932 as a place for workers in Las Vegas to get away from their jobs and the heat. Benny Binion acquired Hotel Apache and opened Binion’s Gambling Hall and Hotel, which has tons of amenities to make your stay comfortable. This was the first hotel in Las Vegas to air-condition its hotel lobby, add in an electrically operated elevator, and fully carpet their casino. Still operating today, some guests have reported sightings of figures and ghosts, leaving us to wonder if the historic Hotel Apache is haunted. 

 

Vintage Photo of Sahara Sign in Las VegasSource: vintagelasvegas.com

 

Sahara | Opened October 1952 | Still Operating

The Sahara Hotel opened in 1952 as a Moroccan-desert themed resort with life-sized camels, the largest swimming pool on the Strip, and a dinner theater with the highest seating capacity. In 1960 the hotel opened a fourteen-story tower, becoming then, the tallest building in the state of Nevada. During the 1970s the Sahara began to lose its popularity and closed until February of 2013, when it was announced that the Sahara would be converted into the SLS Las Vegas. In August 2019 the resort became Sahara Las Vegas as part of the rebranding through renovation process.

 

Sands | Opened December 1952 | Closed June 1996

The Sands Hotel and Casino, the seventh resort to open on the Strip, was the center of entertainment. Many famous entertainers including the Rat Pack and Frank Sinatra spent their free time in the casino. During 1955, limited integration came to the heavily segregated area of Las Vegas when Nat King Cole performed and stayed in the hotel. During the same time American singer and activist Harry Belafonte became the “first black man to play cards on the Las Vegas Strip.” The Sands was closed down in June of 1996, imploded and demolished, with the Venetian taking its place. 

 

Riviera | Opened April 1955 | Closed May 2015

Upon opening in April of 1955, the Riviera Hotel & Casino was the first high-rise resort of its kind. The Riviera had one long-running show Crazy Girls, a topless show, and the inspiration for the 2008 film Crazy Girls Undercover. Just three months after its opening, the hotel went bankrupt, most likely due to the explosion of new hotels on the Las Vegas Strip. In 2015, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority purchased The Riviera to expand the convention center. 

 

Vintage Photo of the Dunes Hotel in Las VegasSource: vintagelasvegas.com

 

Dunes | Opened May 1955 | Closed January 1993

Opening just three weeks after the Riviera Hotel, “The Miracle in the Desert,” or the Dunes, was themed after Arabian Nights, and was the tenth resort to be added to the Strip. After suffering from low revenue, Las Vegas casino owner Steve Wynn purchased the Dunes in 1992 and had the hotel imploded on national television. Today, Park MGM, the New York New York, and the Bellagio all sit on what used to be the Dunes hotel site.  

 

Tropicana | Opened April 1957 | Still Operating

“The Tiffany of the Strip,” Tropicana was the most expensive Las Vegas resort to be built by 1957. This old Las Vegas hotel has lots of history through mob ties and in the film industry. In the 7th James Bond film, 007 stays at the hotel Tropicana. Another classic, the Las Vegas sequence of The Godfather, was filmed inside as well. In 2012, Tropicana announced an affiliation with DoubleTree by Hilton and became a Penn National Gaming destination in 2015.

 

Stardust | Opened July 1958 | Closed November 2006

The Stardust Resort opened in July of 1958 when the famed Stardust sign became an iconic symbol of Las Vegas, one that could be seen from over 3 miles away. This historic Las Vegas hotel held the Strip’s only first-run drive-in theater and an Olympic-sized pool that was open to the general public! The Stardust Resort permanently closed its doors in November of 2006, complete with a grand ceremony of fireworks and explosives that brought the towers of the hotel down forever.

 

Vintage Photo of the Golden Gate Hotel in Las VegasSource: vintagelasvegas.com

 

Make Your Own Las Vegas History

Nevada became a state in October of 1864. Not long after, Golden Gate Hotel and Casino opened their doors as the first Las Vegas Hotel, and the rest is history. Over the years Las Vegas has seen hotels and casinos come and go, but the city has created a reputation for itself that will last a lifetime. Next time you’re booking a hotel room in Las Vegas, make your own history at the Golden Gate Hotel – the first hotel in Vegas.

The Golden Gate is proud to preserve a piece of its history with 10 rooms that date back to the hotel’s opening in 1906. These rooms welcomed ranchers and railroad men. Singers and starlets. Mobsters, middle-America vacationers, and honeymooners. The Original 10 are part of the bones of Golden Gate. These rooms have seen things. They know things. They have stories to tell, but they’re mighty good at keeping secrets.