Neon Museum 2014

Tom Wolfe once said that Las Vegas is “the only town in the world whose skyline is made up neither of buildings, like New York, nor of trees like Wilbraham, Massachusetts, but of signs.” So, in a city where attractions are regularly updated to be bigger and better, where do all of these sparkling signs go to rest in peace? To the Neon Boneyard Park, of course! This park started in 1996 to help conserve and restore some of Las Vegas’ world famous signs. Each sign and hotel has a unique history and shows the progression of neon signs throughout the years. Las Vegas was founded as a city in 1905, which is seen on the yellow “1905 Gambling” sign. Some of the first clubs to come to the Fremont street strip were the Las Vegas Club (1930), Frontier Club (1935) and the Boulder Club which began legalized gambling in 1931. Some of the themed resorts that we see today, the El Cortez and the Flamingo, started showing up in the 1940’s. Moulin Rouge became the first racially integrated hotel in 1955 but unfortunately closed a month later. Suspicions are still out but most point to the hotel’s 2 am entertainment, called ‘The Breakfast show’. After the other resorts and clubs closed the Moulin Rouge remained open and became extremely popular. Controversial business ethics and/or jealousy from outstanding members of Las Vegas seemed to lead to the demise of the hotel. Most of the original signs from these clubs, hotels and resorts can be found in the ‘Boneyard’. One of the most fascinating signs in the park is the Stardust sign. In 1958, this sign was the largest in Vegas, standing 27 feet above the casino’s first floor, 216 feet long with 11,000 bulbs and 7,000 feet of neon tubing. After the launch of Sputnik, tourist would gather in Vegas to watch atomic blasts at the Nevada Testing site hence the choice for the lettering of the sign; which was later named ‘atomic’ font. In some postcards found in the city, you can actually see the mushroom cloud formations caused from nuclear testing in the background of the city. The famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign was designed by Betty Willis in 1959. At the time this was a huge accomplishment for a female artist. Next time you’re in Vegas remember that there’s more to this glitzy Sin City than the gambling, shows, shopping and nightlife. The history is very interesting too!

CF 12/13/14

Brave Explorations. Soulful Discoveries.

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