Chapter Two The first Neon signs of Las Vegas 1928-1929 – Oasis Cafe Not First Neon Sign in Las Vegas!

(updated march 1, 2018)

(all of the images are from the author’s collection)

Since posting The Overland Hotel had the first Neon sign in Las Vegas, several gentle folks have suggested it was the Oasis Café in 1927.

Started researching the first Neon signs in Las Vegas several years ago and kept running into the following statements about the Oasis and the Las Vegas Club.

Although hoping to find the café in question had a Neon sign in Las Vegas in 1927, to date have not found a primary source to back up that often asserted  ‘fact!’

a couple of bits of information.

1911 Oasis Opens

April 1, 1911, Page eight, Las Vegas Age  “An Oasis in Las Vegas.”  “Mr. and Mrs. G. H. French have opened a new confectionery store next to the Age office, to be called the “Oasis Candy Store.”  All kinds of home-made candies are kept in stock as well as the factory built article.  Later in the season a soda fountain wall be installed and ice cream will be served.  it is also probably that a shady bower will be made by means of vines where cooling refreshments may be served in the open air.”

1924 Oasis Moves

On April 5, 1924, the Las Vegas Age ran a one paragraph story on page six titled, “NEW OASIS A GEM.”  The story said, “The Oasis is now fairly settled in its handsome new quarters in the Martin-Ferron building.  the new store is a gem and will be much appreciated by the public.”

Pre-Neon Oasis sign – late 1920’s early 1930s’

and, while the Oasis initially was a confectionery store with “candy & soda”  the light sign hanging from the main sign provides a look at its future as a restaurant.  At this point it only serves “EATS.”

Sounds funny as a noun, EATS rather than a verb.  In this case it must mean sandwiches or maybe fruits, or pastry, donuts .  With that, looking for other Las Vegas “EATS” signs, as well as the one word circular signs with a cover.

Pre Neon Oasis Cafe sign.  The post card printers code, lower right, 1A1840 indicates the post card was printed late in 1931.   

Note the first Boulder Club Neon sign on right side.

     The statements about the Oasis Cafe having the first Neon sign are found on sites focused on Las Vegas, its history, and are clearly are sites where the creators and reporters, and universities involved have a respect and care regarding an accurate accounting of the history of the community.

BUT!   We have the many statement regarding the Oasis Café being the first to have a Neon sign in Las Vegas.  Two days for the first are offered, 1927 and 1929.

A second Neon story circulated that, at this point, has not basis in fact; the Las Vegas Club, in 1931 was the first hotel-casino to have a Neon sign.

Here are a few of the many statemtns, starting off with at a UCLA.edu, quote “the city’s first neon sign at the Oasis Cafe in 1929, the opening of a branch office of the Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) in Las Vegas in 1933.”    https://aeri.gseis.ucla.edu/AERI%202011%20Posters/aeri11_SB.pdf

Here are a few more;

  • “Las Vegas’ first neon sign, designating the Oasis Cafe on Fremont Street, appeared in 1929. The town embraced the technology and turned it into an art form. “
  • “Here’s a little known fact about the Las Vegas Club: In 1931 they installed the first neon sign on a hotel casino and the second neon sign in the Las Vegas (the first Las Vegas neon sign was in 1927 at the Oasis Restaurant).”
  • “The first Las Vegas installation of neon signage was in 1927 at the Oasis Restaurant. Downtown Las Vegas from Fremont and Second Street. “
  • “The Oasis Café sign was the first neon sign in Las Vegas built in 1929 followed by the Las Vegas Club sign in 1930.”
  • “The first Las Vegas installation of neon signage was in 1927 at the Oasis Restaurant.”
  • “Neon signs, introduced in Las Vegas in 1929 at the Oasis Café on Fremont Street, enjoyed their heyday between the 1930s – 1980s.”

All of the above are from different sites, and there are many, many more.

First let’s deal with the Las Vegas Club – “First Neon sign on a hotel-casino.”

The Northern Hotel and Club had its neon sign up in 1929, when gambling on card games and some slot machines were legal.   When additional gambling was legalized in 1931, the Northern was issued gaming license number one.   At the time the Las Vegas Club’s hotel, like the Northern was just wasn’t much of a hotel.  The only reason the two club’s originally opened with a hotel on the second floor was it gave them the legal ability to sell alcohol.  No hotel, no alcohol, as legal place, according to deed restrictions, to just retail alcohol “saloons” was on Block 16, the 200 block of north First.   Unless there is something else added to the Las Vegas Club’s sign defintion to make it ‘first,’  it wasn’t the first.

Oasis Cafe Business card.

Second, the Oasis Cafe.  While it had a great address  123 Fremont Street, not sure how or when the Oasis Café was originally given the title of ‘first neon sign,’ in Las Vegas  both in 1927 and  1929.

So far, only able to find this article about Neon at the Oasis in the April 28, 1932 issue of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The front page has a story titled “Neon Sign Being Placed at Oasis.”  The newspaper says “a truckload of Neon signs, to be placed on various establishments in Las Vegas arrived here this morning and were in the process of installation this afternoon.  Among the sings was a large 10 foot by six foot sign for the Oasis Confectionery store.”

Early 1930’s Post Card.

The café was owned by E.P. Bihlmaier.  The newspaper story went on to describe the sign; “There is a palm tree, outlined with Neon tubing and a Neoned “Oasis Café” in the center of the sign.”

Bihlmaier told the reporter “tubing” would also be placed in the window, providing his café with a “Neoned Front.”[i]

A month earlier Thomas Young opened a temporary office in the brand new Apache Hotel located across the street from Bihlmaier’s café.  One building, just west of the Apache Hotel, on the same side of the Street was the Boulder Club, it was in need of a new Neon sign.  It first was installed three years earlier.  Young convinced both the owners of the Oasis and the Boulder Club they needed Neon.[ii]

Unless there is a primary source for the Oasis Café having a Neon sign in 1927,  The Overland Hotel’s Neon sign, the week of September 28, 1928 stands as the first Neon sign in Las Vegas.

Currently working on part two of the first Neon sign, 1928-1929 in Las Vegas at Vegasarchive.com aka Vegasrecord.com aka Captainhistory.com aka Bigfootnote.com

[i] “Neon Sign Being Placed at Oasis,” April 28, 1932, Las Vegas Review-Journal, page one.

[ii] Display advertisement, Young Electric Sign Company, March 29, 1932, Las Vegas Review-Journal, page six, “A Legacy of Light, The History of Young Electric Sign Company,” 1995, Designed and written by Barbara Barell, printed by Paragon Press, Inc., page twenty-nine.

Chapter One 1928-1929 THE FIRST NEON SIGNS IN LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

 Neon  in  Las Vegas    1928 to 1930,    the First 14 months.

(updated March 1, 2018)

Preface. In 2011, Dorothy Wright and I were serving on the City of Las Vegas Historic Preservation Commission.   Dorothy, who fought for years to preserve the history of Las Vegas including Neon signs, was working on a book on the topic.

In researching early aviation history in Las Vegas I bumped into a small newspaper article about a Neon sign.   I mentioned it to Dorothy and she asked for the clipping.

The reference is found on page eighteen of the book “Spectacular, A History of Las Vegas Neon,” written by Dorothy, Melissa Johnson and Carrie Schomig.

They write, “The Overland was, if not the first, certainly one of the first neon signs in Las Vegas.”   The same paragraph provides a brief look at signs in the late 1920’s before moving on the 1930’s.

Our focus starts in September of 1928, and ends in December of 1929.  During this brief period Las Vegas would see the first glow of a Neon sign, as well as the beginning of the battles over whose Neon display was bigger and brighter.

Additional research reveals the Neon sign on the Overland Hotel was in fact the first, and ten more followed by the end of 1929.

(All the images in this story are from the author’s collection)

THE  FIRST  NEON  SIGN   IN   LAS VEGAS

Las Vegas in the winter of 1928 was weeks away from becoming known around the world.

At the moment, however, all was unusually quiet in the normally wide-open desert out-post.

The prohibition against the sale of alcohol in the United States was still the law, and in Nevada most forms of gambling were also illegal.

But since its founding in 1905, law enforcement in the areas of liquor, gambling and prostitution was done with a wink and a nod.

However, starting in the middle of 1928 through early 1929, a heavy lid was placed on illegal gambling and the sale of alcohol.

The “King of the Las Vegas Underworld,” was in jail, the Las Vegas Chief of Police had resigned in disgrace, and the Mayor was about to be busted by federal agents, and face a recall for crimes related to the other two men.

ca. 1928 Post card of Fremont Street looking west.

For most Las Vegans, despite the cool winter days, and the government scandals, a bright future was in the air.

After nearly a decade of debate the United States Congress appeared ready to approve a bill to build a massive dam across the Colorado River, not far from Las Vegas.

On December 18, following a 166 to 122 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives  the legislation was sent to President Calvin Coolidge.

Seventy-two hours later, the President signed the Boulder Canyon Dam bill.

In a story sent nationwide by the Associated Press wire service, “shot-guns and frying pans were pressed into service as noise makers” in Las Vegas “by a joy-mad populace that turned out to celebrate.”[i]

Not only were “joy-mad” locals excited, so were, and using the broadest definition of the word possible, ‘entrepreneurs,’ who saw the light at the northern edge of the Mojave desert.

They were all on their way.  Real estate speculators, business owners, construction workers, and those who saw the empty shoes of the King of the Las Vegas underworld as an opportunity.

Clark County Sheriff Sam Gay received a letter from a company saying, “When Boulder Dam is built, you’ll need a bigger jail, let us build it for you.”

Las Vegans who had been living with the ups and downs of dam possibility, began feeling in early the year the project would get the green light.

Ethel Guenter was the owner of The Overland, one of the two large hotels in Las Vegas. [ii]

Late in August of 1928 she felt it was time to improve the marketing of the Overland.  One of Guenter’s answers included the word Neon.

The hotel was in a prime spot located on the north east corner of Main and Fremont.  On the other side of Main was the Union Pacific Railroad passenger depot.

However, across Fremont Street, on the south west corner was the Guenther main competition, the Hotel Nevada, now the Golden Gate Hotel.

Of the two, the Nevada was a bit more upscale.

The Overland catered to the bus travelers, as well business traveler.  The hotel had a “Large Free Sample Room” where salesmen could display their wares.

There were no companies in Las Vegas in the fall of 1928 that provided signs with tubes filled with the rare-earth gas Neon.

Either Guenther saw an advertisement in a Salt Lake City, or Los Angeles newspaper, or  she ordered it from a traveling sign salesman, in either case in August an order for a Neon sign was placed.

A month later, the following story appeared on front page one of the September 28th Las Vegas Review newspaper.[iii]

The double sided sign contained the words “OVERLAND HOTEL.”  But only the “HOTEL” was fashioned out of tubes filled with Neon.

It is not known if the word  “HOTEL” flashed on and off, or the color. Likely tubes likely glowed a reddish-orange, the natural color of Neon

What is known is the sign, with the eight to 10 inches tall Neon letters, left an impression on the reporter who wrote the sign adds “considerable to the appearance of that section of the city.[iv]

The new neon sign hung down from a pole extended from the corner of the hotel horizontally over the sidewalk.

A review of the cities other newspaper, the Las Vegas Age, published by Charles and Delphine  Squires, for the months of September and October, 1928, revealed no reference to Neon, or the new sign at the Overland Hotel.

Therefore, the title of “First Neon Sign” in Las Vegas award goes to

the Overland Hotel, September 28, 1928.

 

Pause for a moment with a However!

There is a ‘however’ to this historical award.  It comes from  newspaperman  Squires who arrived in Las Vegas in 1905.

In 1948 Squires said he believed the first Las Vegas Neon sign was installed “about 1928.” [v]

He thought the first Neon sign that went up was installed on the southwest corner of Second and Fremont, where the Golden Nugget is now located.

Squires said there was “a cigar store operated by Jimmie Powers and Bob Griffith.”

It was the Mission Cigar Store.  And according to Squires “there the first Neon sign in Las Vegas blossomed out with the one word, “Cigars” standing out from the building about four and one-half feet in length.”[vi]

A photograph, ca 1930,  of the corner reveals the letters in the sign were all upper case;“CIGARS”

Squires added, the Neon sign created “quite a blaze of light for the little town and we all figured they would have to sell a lot of cigars to pay for it.” [vii]

He said the second Neon sign in Las Vegas was “a small one on the M. W. Davis Jewelry store which read simply “Jewelry.” [viii]

Squires “small” description may have been based on a comparison of the 1929 Davis sign to the much larger Neon signs along Fremont Street when he made his comments in 1948.

After Cigar and Jeweler  Squires said “there was a fever of Neon signs, each one larger and more artistic, beautiful and brilliant that its predecessor.” [ix]

There is a however,’ to the Squires ‘however.’
In early April, 1929, Alexander Barrett, described at the time as a “neon expert” and his partners opened the Las Vegas Neon Electric Sign Company.

Nine months later, on January 1, 1930, the company advertised it had created several of the Neon signs in town.  On the list of signs, The Mission Cigar Store and M. W. Davis Jeweler Company.[x]

If the Las Vegas Neon Electric Sign Company didn’t open its doors until the spring of 1929, the cigar sign, while early, was not the first.

Nor was the jewelry sign in the window of Davis’ shop the first.  After the sign company opened, Davis became a part owner.

In a 1953 article Squires wrote, “The first neon sign I remember in Las Vegas was placed over the door of the Kiva Club in the old building, corner of Second and Fremont, where the Golden Nugget now blazes.  It said “KIVA” in red letters about three inches high and REALLY WAS A NEW WONDER IN Las Vegas.”   [xi]

The two signs, Mission Cigar, and the Kiva night club were in the same spot.  Kiva replaced cigar.

Squires added, “Jack Young thinks there were other small neon signs here prior to that one, but I remember only the “KIVA.” [xii]

Young, of the pioneering Neon sign company, Young Electric, was partially correct, there were signs prior to the KIVA, but they were not “small.”

The two ‘howevers’ do not hold up to additional research.

The award for having the “First Neon Sign in Las Vegas” rest firmly with the historic Overland Hotel, which was still under the facade and previous remodels of the Las Vegas Club until it was torn down this year.

 

The sign would only be up for a couple of years.   Its life expectancy was reduced when the city starting  adding ornate street lights to Fremont Street in October of 1929.

Also note the ladder and the ornamental wrought iron fencing being covered or replaced.

When the light pole was installed, the first Neon side was moved to the Fremont Street side of the hotel

Finally, the sign was removed, along with the trees and replaced with two larger Neon signs.  One on the Main Street side and a second large sign on the Fremont Street side.

 

Up to the mid 1920’s the primary source of transportation in and out of Las Vegas was the Union Pacific Railroad.

Starting in the mid teens, work began to improve the roads between Utah and California.  Until the early 1920’s the roads were a small step above trails.

Then in 1926, the federal government created U.S. Highway 91 and bus travel became part of the transportation options, in and out of Las Vegas.

Coming in from southern California, through Nevada and into Utah the highway was paved.   Paved in terms of the 1920’s definition; leveled, add oil, add gravel, and oil again.

Driving into Las Vegas from Los Angeles highway heading south on 5th Street, (Now Las Vegas Boulevard) then a zig-zag west on Fremont Street to Main Street and turn north to Salt Lake City; 5th, Fremont, Main Streets, all U.S. Highway 91.

A wide shot of Fremont Street showing three of the 4 first Neon signs in Las Vegas as well as a U.S. Highway 91 sign. ca. 1930

By the late 1920’s thousands of cars a year traveled the highway through Las Vegas.

Several clubs and so-call soft drink emporiums were operating on the first two blocks of Fremont.

The two main operations where you could have a ‘drink’ and gamble legally at poker, and pull a few slot machine handles, were the Northern and the Las Vegas Clubs.

               Based on the automobile’s  license plate,  this is Northern Hotel Sign                       in early 1929.  

With the dam legislation approved new business were moving in and in many cases proving competition to existing operators, including the gaming clubs.

A couple of clubs would be built out past the city limits on U.S. 91.  The first in 1929 would be the Red Rooster, followed by the Pair O’ Dice.

Another early riser was Prosper J. Goumond, and his crew of experienced gamblers from Ely.   In late spring of 1929 they moved to Las Vegas bought the lot at 118 Fremont and built the Boulder Club.

Just before Goumond arrived, two Neon sign companies opened for business in the city.  With his arrival, the summer and fall of 1929 would mark the beginning of the Las Vegas Neon wars.

The first known neon sign company in the Las Vegas opened in February of 1929, as the Boski Electric Company.   When its owner Earl K. Bruce convinced his two brothers to join him, the name quickly changed to the Bruce Brothers electric company; “live wire electricians.”[xiii]

Then the brothers cut a deal with the largest Neon firm in the world, Claude Neon Signs. [xiv]

 The Claude Neon sign company was owned by Georges Claude, a French inventor.   Claude was a pioneer in the development of neon lighting.  He would patent his inventions in the U.S. and fought many court battles to preserve his ideas.

Claude is considered to be the first person “to apply an electrical discharge to a. sealed tube with neon as the gas creating the first neon lamp.” [xv]

The same day the Bruce Brothers announced their deal with Claude  the Las Vegas Neon Electric Sign Company opened its doors.

Barrett and his partners said they were “here to stay and will handle work on signs of any size or class” as well as “providing servicing after the installation,”

The company opened its shop at 18 Bridger Street with what the partnership called “full equipment.” [xvii]

Bruce Brothers and Las Vegas Neon would become part of Las Vegas’ first battle of the Neon signs.

The fight would start with ‘my sign is larger than your sign,’ and over the years would develop into an artistic, and technological marketing game of who can attract the most attention.

Downtown Las Vegas would combine its Neon and western theme and become known in the 1940’s as “Glitter Gulch.”

Looking west at the tree-lined third street of Fremont with railroad depot on background,   the Golden Hotel in early 1929 before its Neon sign was installed. 

The Las Vegas Neon Electric Sign Company on the night of April 29, 1929, finished its first major installation at the Hotel Golden. [xviii]

 The hotel, owned by Mrs. Thomas R. Hodgens, was located at 323 Fremont on the south side at the corner of 4th and Fremont.

Beyond the fact that it was described as an eight foot long Neon sign, no images or other details of the sign have been uncovered.

The story announcing the installation included the following sentence, “When the eight foot long sign was turned on, Mrs. Hodges expressed pride in ownership of one of the state of the art electric signs.” [xix]

While Las Vegas Neon was working on the Hotel Golden sign, the Bruce Brothers were working on an even bigger sign for the Boulder Club. [xx]

This early 1931 post card shows the sign was painted green.  And while artists at the post card printing plant often made their own artistic decisions, they were provided with color details by the company ordering the post cards.  In this case it was William Ferron or his staff.  He owned  drugs stores in Las Vegas and at the time was the largest post card publisher in southern Nevada.

Since the new club was in the middle of the business district Goumond decided he needed a sign that could be seen at the railroad depot, and drivers traveling on U.S. 91.

 Opened on Saturday night of July 27, 1929, with gaming tables on the west side of the long two-story building and the bar and a few “nickel-in-the-slot-machines” on the east side, Goumond called his place, “Nevada’s Finest Men’s Club.”

His advertisements would not mention gambling, as that was covered in the word “Club.”   Goumond did point to his “Soda Fountain, Sandwiches, Candies, Cigars, Cigarettes, and Tobaccos.”  [xxi]

On opening day, the Las Vegas Age promoted the Boulder Club saying the new business was “crowned with its great twelve-foot Neon sign.[xxii]

The Boulder Club’s sign was four feet longer then the Hotel Golden’s 8-foot sign two blocks east.

 

 

The vertical double sided sign on the Boulder Club extended out from the top of the second floor up past the roof line.

And for with sharp eyes,  at the bottom of the photograph is the “Louis Wiener” clothing store.

The Wiener’s son, Lou would go on to become a famous Las Vegas attorney.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original sign was still up when this photograph was taken in late August, 1931.  It provides the detail of where and how the Boulder Club Neon sign was installed.

As the Bruce Brothers were assembling and installing the Boulder Club sign, Barrett’s Las Vegas Las Vegas Neon Electric Sign Company had secured a contract from the Northern Club.

Owned by the Stocker family the Northern Hotel and Club, located at 15 Fremont Street, wanted the largest Neon sign in town.[xxiii]

The need for space to build the large Northern sign required the company to move from its Bridger Street location to Third and Carson.  Two weeks after the Boulder Club sign began to glow, the Las Vegas Neon company owners said they were working on a “big new sign for the Northern Club.” [xxiv]  The announcement said the sign was “almost finished and ready for erection.” [xxv]

The Las Vegas Age reported in its Saturday, August 24, 1929 edition, “The new sixteen-foot neon electric sign at the Northern Club will be flashing tonight, according to Barrett and Clout, builders of the sign.  It is the largest neon sign in the city and will flash the word “The” and then “Northern Club.”

This ca 1930 view, shows the east side of the two side sign.

Once again, the Neon colors were not mentioned.

From the photographs it appears the sign was painted white or a yellow.

 

 

 

Two months later, in October without the “THE” an advertisement appeared in the Las Vegas Age with a graphic of the Stocker’s new sign.

   The one time ad was an unusual move for the Stockers who didn’t regularly use the local newspapers to promote their club.

 

 

 

 

 

While it would be the fourth Neon sign to light up Fremont Street, for a while, it would be the tallest and the flashiest.

This late 1929, early 1930 post card shows the Northern’s first neon sign, as well as being the site for another city light pole.

It appears the only Neon sign the Bruce Brothers installed in 1929 was at the Boulder Club.   Over the next couple of years the company would change management and focus on electrical work.  That would change after meeting Thomas Young.

At the end of 1929, the Las Vegas Neon Sign Company had built and installed Neon signs at the Golden Hotel,  Gateway Hotel, Northern Club,   M. W. Davis Jeweler, Beckley’s, Professional Pharmacy, and the Mission Cigar Store.  The sign company also said they were the “contractors for the new Las Vegas High School electrical wiring” system.  [xxvi]

Gateway Hotel and Main and Stewart Streets

The battle over the biggest and brightest Neon sign would continue into the 1930’s.

With gambling legalized in 1931 and clubs opening up and down Fremont, new hotels being built and with the construction of the dam well underway 1932 would become a milestone in the history of Neon in Las Vegas.

At some point before May 1, 1932, the Bruce Brothers Electric Company became the simply the “Nevada Electric Company,” with A. M. Bruce as the Manager. [xxvii]

In March of 1932, Thomas Young, of the Young Electric Sign Company set up an office in the brand new Apache Hotel at Second and Fremont Streets.

Young said at the time,  he was “pleased to announce our entering Las Vegas.”   [xxviii]

As part of the initial business plan, Young also said he was working directly with the Nevada Electric Company. [xxix]

Young’s Neon work continues to glow at http://www.neonmuseum.org/about/the-collection/neon-boneyard

Looking for early Neon sign images along Fremont Street, we began to notice as Neon arrived, the trees began to disappear.

        Until a Neon sign is found in Las Vegas before September 28, 1928, the Overland Hotel holds the honor of having the first Neon sign in Las Vegas.

Here is a list of the first eleven known Neon signs in Las Vegas  1928-1929 and when each sign began to glow.

  1. Overland Hotel, week of September 28, 1928.
  2. Golden Hotel, April 29, 1929.
  3. Boulder Club, July 27, 1929.
  4. Northern Club, August, 24, 1929.
  5. W. Davis Jeweler, Summer-Fall, 1929.
  6. Mission Cigar, Fall, 1928.
  7. Beckley’s Department Store, After August 24, 1929
  8. La Salle, after August 24, 1929.
  9. Oak Hotel, after August 24, 1929
  10. Gateway Hotel, Fall, 1929.
  11. Professional Pharmacy, Fall, 1929.

[i] “Celebration at Las Vegas, Nev.” December 21, 1928, Associated Press.

[ii] “New Management for Overland Hotel,” February 10, 1928, Las Vegas Age, page two.

[iii]  The newspaper would be the Las Vegas Review, until took over the “Las Vegas Journal” in July of 1929 to become the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

[iv] “Hotel has New Sign,” September 28, 1928, Las Vegas Review, Page one.

[v]  “New Motel Elwell” by Charles P. Squires, January 25, 1948, Las Vegas Evening Review-Journal & Age, page 12B.

[vi]  “New Motel Elwell” by Charles P. Squires, January 25, 1948, Las Vegas Evening Review-Journal & Age, page 12B.

[vii]  “New Motel Elwell” by Charles P. Squires, January 25, 1948, Las Vegas Evening Review-Journal & Age, page 12B.

[viii]  “New Motel Elwell” by Charles P. Squires, January 25, 1948, Las Vegas Evening Review-Journal & Age, page 12B.

[ix]  “New Motel Elwell” by Charles P. Squires, January 25, 1948, Las Vegas Evening Review-Journal & Age, page 12B.

[x]  “Las Vegas Neon Electric Sign Co.” display advertisement, January 1, 1930, Las Vegas Review Journal, page four.

[xi] “Observations,” by Charles P. “Pop” Squires, September 12, 1953, Fabulous Las Vegas magazine, Page 25.

[xii] “Observations,” by Charles P. “Pop” Squires, September 12, 1953, Fabulous Las Vegas magazine, Page 25.

[xiii]  “Boski Electric Opens Temporary Quarters,” February 26, 1929, Las Vegas Age, Page two. “Electric Firm Has Two new Members,” March 5, 1929, Las Vegas Age, page one.

[xiv]  “Neon Signs Have Agents in Vegas,” April 5, 1929, Las Vegas Review Journal, page one.

[xv] http://neonlibrary.com/neon_history_2.html

[xvi] 1930 United States Federal Census, Las Vegas, Clark, Nevada,  National archives and records administration, , T626.

[xvii]  “Hotel Golden’ s New Neon Sign Installed,” April 30, 1929, Las Vegas Age, Page one

[xviii]  “Hotel Golden’ s New Neon Sign Installed,” April 30, 1929, Las Vegas Age, Page one

[xix]  “Hotel Golden’ s New Neon Sign Installed,” April 30, 1929, Las Vegas Age, Page one

[xx]  “Boulder Club Holds Grand Opening T’Day,” July 27, 1929, Las Vegas Age, page one.

[xxi]  Display advertisement, Boulder Club, July 27, 192, Las Vegas Review, page three.

[xxii]  “Boulder Club Holds Grand Opening T’Day,” July 27, 1929, Las Vegas Age, page one.

[xxiii]  “New Northern Club neon Sign Completed,” August 24, 1929, Las Vegas Age, Page three.

[xxiv] “Neon Sign Company is now in New Location,” August 13, 1929, Las Vegas Age, page three.

[xxv] “Neon Sign Company is now in New Location,” August 13, 1929, Las Vegas Age, page three.

[xxvi]  “New Northern Club Neon Sign Completed,” August 24, 1939, Las Vegas Age, page three.

[xxvii] “Electric Company, Inc.,” display advertisement, May 1, 1932, Las Vegas Age, Page two.

[xxviii]  “Young Electric Sign Company,” display advertisement, March 29, 1932, Las Vegas Evening Review-Journal, page six.

[xxix]  “Young Electric Sign Company,” display advertisement, March 29, 1932, Las Vegas Evening Review-Journal, page six.

 

Chapter one – 1912, The Northern Hotel and Bar Opens in Las Vegas.

Late in 2017, with the demolition flag flying, the site of where the historic Northern Hotel and Bar once stood on Fremont Street, in downtown Las Vegas, is almost ‘restored’ to when the town was created in 1905.

In 1905 it was a flat piece of land covered in alfalfa, today, 2018 bits and pieces of old tile mark the spot where history was made, several times over.

For decades the rough and tumble development of gambling was made at the Northern.  Now it is just an empty space behind a billboard, hiding ….progress.  

 

An aerial map of central Nevada farm land? Nope!  Just what is left of the site where the Northern Hotel bar once was.

No plaque marks the spot, no effort has been made so far to reveal to the passing public, the history that occurred on this spot.

 

 

 

It is a sad and unnecessary way to put a period after the words Northern Hotel and Bar.

The Northern’s history, on Block 3, lot 27, began in 1912 by starting a beer war.

The Northern would become home to colorful, and infamous characters from Groesbeck, to the Stockers, to the Stearns, to Sedway and Siegel.

Add in Las Vegas resort visionary, Wilbur Clark and you have a building that often changed names and most certainly changed history.

(And, if you like, throw in mobster ‘Russian Louis’ for good measure.)

A review of the details of the story of the Las Vegas “Northern” reveals one the downsides of history on the web.

Once errors are made they get repeated over and over.  Then with many sites making the same mistakes, the fiction get footnoted as fact.

The focus of this series of reports will be, hopefully, to separate facts from fiction covering the first 30 years of the Northern’s life, plus its moments in the Hollywood spotlight.

As we dig into the history of the Northern and its owners, there are natural transitions in the story.   Currently this is the outline, but, it has changed several times since we started this project, and will likely change several more times as more information is unearthed.

Chapter one.  1912 The Northern Hotel and Bar Opens on Fremont Street.

Chapter two.   Northern Hotel and Bar – Raids –Illegal gambling and alcohol.

Chapter three.  The Stocker Era Begins. ‘Three wild and crazy guys!”

Chapter four.    The Northern and the Roaring Twenty’s Las Vegas Style

Chapter five.   The Northern.  1930’s, The Stocker Brothers buy from Mom and Dad.

Chapter six        The Northern and its role in legalizing Gambling.

Chapter Seven.     The 1930’s  The Brothers  lease to other Brothers. 

 (There is a lot to cover in the 1930’s.  Chapter 7 is likely to turn into chapters  8 and maybe 9.)

Tentative  Chapter eight. The Northern- Bugsy Siegel first door to Las Vegas.

Tentative  Chapter nine.   Wilbur Clark changes name of Northern.

Tentative   Chapter eight.   The Northern following World War II.

Tentative       Chapter ten.    The Northern becomes  ?

Tentative        Chapter Eleven.     Tomorrow. and Opinion Piece.

 

Before Chapter One, here is an image of the Northern’s days of glory and a look at Block 3, lot 27’s most recent role on Fremont Street, “a grind joint.”

A link to images of Lay Bayou being torn down.

https://vitalvegas.com/demolition-begins-downtown-la-bayou-casino/

Courtesy UNLV Special Collections 

 

Chapter one.   1912 –   

                               The Northern Hotel and Bar Opens on Fremont Street.

In mid-December of 1911, the Utah based “Salt Lake Brewery Company” purchased a lot on the south side of the first block of Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas.

With an alley separating the two properties, the land was adjacent to the then Nevada Hotel, now the Golden Gate Hotel-Casino.

When the “Salt Lake Brewery” purchased the land the “Baltimore Restaurant” was sitting on the lot.  Lot twenty-seven in Block 3.  The building, owned by Peter Buol,  was moved off the property and the land readied for a new structure. [i]

Las Vegas became an official incorporated city a few months earlier in June of 1911 and Buol was elected became its first mayor.

The land itself was owned by J. F. Dunn, identified as the Superintendent of the Oregon Short Line railroad.

That railroad was part of the Union Pacific Railroad system, which in turn was half owner of the Salt Lake Route railroad, which in turn was the most powerful entity in Las Vegas.   Which in turn would directly impact the the soon to be built Northern Hotel and Bar.

Stories about the railroad and its alleged concern about who owned the Northern would become part of the colorful history of the club.

Fred Leonard a Salt Lake City businessman, representing the brewing company, finalized the deal for the land.

Not quite final.  Before the decade was out, Leonard’s company would own the Northern.

The Las Vegas Age reported in its December 30, 1911 issue, the sale “marks the highest price yet paid for an unimproved business lot in this city, being at the rate of $140 per front foot.” [ii]    Other estimates of the price ran as high as $7,500.[iii]   The last estimate likely included the cost of construction.

The brewery company said it planned to build a two-story hotel, with a “cold storage plant underneath.” [iv]

The second story would house the fifteen room hotel, with “all modern conveniences including electric lights, gas, hot and cold water.”  [v]

The hotel office and a bar “fitted in a luxuriant manner”  would on the first floor, according to the brewery’s press release. [vi]

At the same time, local citizens were informed “Lon Groesbeck, who is known by thousands through the west, will be the local manager of the business and the name, taken from his old friend Tex Rickard, will be the Northern.” [vii]

Groesbeck leased the building, and would furnish the hotel and bar with his own funds.

Then published reports, a week before the hotel/bar would opening confirmed the name; “Las Vegas will soon be in line with other Nevada cities by possessing a Northern hotel and bar.  That is the name given to the handsome new hotel being built by the Salt Lake Brewing Co.”  [viii] 

From its start in Alaska to nearly every town in Nevada, there was a “Northern.”  Whether it was a hotel, or a saloon, no self-respecting Nevada mining camp or community was without a “Northern.”

Images from the author’s collection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On page five of the March 23, 1912 issue of the Las Vegas Age is found; “The building is now practically completed except for some interior painting.  After setting the fixtures and completing the interior finish, which, it is expected may be done within ten days, the Northern will be ready to receive the public.”

“Not pretentious in size” Charles Squires, the newspaper’s publisher wrote, “The Northern will be the best appointed and handsomest architecturally of any similar resort in this city.” [ix]     

The west wall of the two story building was used as a large billboard for its owners, The Salt Lake City Brewing Company.

Groesbeck announced the formal opening of the new resort would be held the first week in April and invited “everybody” to inspect “the handsome new quarters and enjoying a sociable time.”  [x]

His boss, the Salt Lake beer brewer, had a “sociable” surprise for Las Vegas and the town’s saloon owners.

The city’s other weekly newspaper, the Clark County Review, was there opening night; “For a couple of hours Tuesday evening everything was free, including chicken sandwiches, and needless to state, business was rushing.”   [xi]     

  Charles Corkhill, publisher of the Review wrote Groesbeck announced to the already happy crowd he was permanently reducing the price of a glass of beer by more than 50%.[xii]

At that time every saloon in town was charging twelve and a half cents a glass, or two glasses of beer for “two-bits.”

The Salt Lake Brewing Company set the new rate at 5 cents a glass.  The moment, Corkhill wrote “marked an epoch in the miscellaneous history of Las Vegas.” [xiii]

“While the five cent innovation” made a “hit with the ultimate consumer,” Corkhill said, “the same cannot be said of the majority of saloon men, nearly all of whom have added arrows of “gloom” to their regular equipment for the entrapment of patrons.” [xiv]

Thus began the Las Vegas Beer War of 1912.

Adding up the saloons along north First Street and the hotels with bars along Fremont Street, there were 19 establishments where you could purchase beer in Las Vegas in 1912.

Two of the largest operations, Al James and his Arizona Club, and Merrit Pollard of the Overland Bar, at the corner of Main and Fremont Streets, immediately dropped their price to 5 cents a glass. [xv]

Author’s collection

The night after the opening of the Northern, the competing saloon operators met and agreed to contact the Maier Brewing Company of Los Angeles their main supplier of beer.

They hoped Maier would reduce the wholesale cost of bottles and kegs of beer. [xvi]

In the meantime, the agreed, each saloon operator was free to act as they wished. They also appointed Pollard as their representative to go to Los Angeles and meet with Maier.[xvii] 

 

1911 Maier’s Beer advertisement.

Pollard’s visit was unsuccessful.

Maier’s made “no concessions” in its wholesale prices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On his return Pollard, whose bar was on the first floor corner of the Overland Hotel, just across from the railroad depot began promoting the new price.

He put up a big banner with two foot lettering announcing the five cent beer.

Author’s collection

Over the next several weeks the beer war raged to the satisfaction of the consumer.

Soon most other saloon owners dropped their price.  Others held firm on their price, but offered larger glasses.

A couple of retail outlets said their liquid was worth the price, it was just better beer.

John Wesley Horden, owner of the Las Vegas Hotel and Bar said, he would “meet all competition in the price of beer.”  And to celebrate the five cent beer he would throw “a grand lunch and the best orchestra music the town affords.  Manager Horden says he does not propose to remain in the rear of any procession that he is in.”   [xviii]

The last holdout was the Lincoln Hotel on Main Street.  (The building, now known as the Victory Hotel, is still standing, as of February, 2018.)

The price of beer was now five cents a glass and stayed that way for many years.

The Beer War of 1912 marked the beginning of a long and colorful history of the building that started life as the Northern Hotel and Bar.

While Alonzo,“Lon” Groesbeck made many friends in Las Vegas with his five cent beer  he also made important enemies.

In Chapter two, “The Northern Hotel and Bar – Raids –Illegal gambling to alcohol.” 

Also coming up later in Chapter Three, recently uncovered documents reveal one of Stocker brothers was in prison while another brother, as a teenager, was working the casinos in Mexico.

 

 

[i] “Salt Lake Brewery Can Come Back,” December 30, 1911, Clark County Review, page two, “Salt Lake Brewing Co.,” December 30, 1911, Las Vegas Age, page one.

[ii] “Salt Lake Brewing Co.,” September 30, 1911, Las Vegas Age, Las Vegas Age, page one.

[iii] “Salt Lake Brewery Can Come Back,” December 30, 1911, Clark County Review, page two, “Salt Lake Brewing Co.,” December 30, 1911, Las Vegas Age, page one.

[iv] “Salt Lake Brewing Co.,” September 30, 1911, Las Vegas Age, Las Vegas Age, page one.

[v] “Salt Lake Brewing Co.,” September 30, 1911, Las Vegas Age, Las Vegas Age, page one.

[vi] “Salt Lake Brewing Co.,” September 30, 1911, Las Vegas Age, Las Vegas Age, page one.

[vii] “Salt Lake Brewing Co.,” September 30, 1911, Las Vegas Age, Las Vegas Age, page one.

[viii] “The Northern,” March 23, 1912, Las Vegas Age, Page five.

[ix] “The Northern,” March 23, 1912, Las Vegas Age, Page five.

[x] “Northern Opening,” March 30, 1912, Las Vegas Age, page four.

[xi] “Five Cent Beer, Latest Innovation, Causes both Cheer and Consternation,” April 6, 1912, Clark County Review, Page one.

[xii] “Five Cent Beer, Latest Innovation, Causes both Cheer and Consternation,” April 6, 1912, Clark County Review, Page one.

[xiii] “Five Cent Beer, latest Innovation, Causes Both Cheer and Consternation,” April 6, 1912, Clark County Review, page one.

[xiv] “Five Cent Beer, Latest Innovation, Causes both Cheer and Consternation,” April 6, 1912, Clark County Review, Page one.

[xv] “Five Cent Beer, Latest Innovation, Causes both Cheer and Consternation,” April 6, 1912, Clark County Review, Page one.

[xvi] “Five Cent Beer, Latest Innovation, Causes both Cheer and Consternation,” April 6, 1912, Clark County Review, Page one.

[xvii] “Five Cent Beer, Latest Innovation, Causes both Cheer and Consternation,” April 6, 1912, Clark County Review, Page one.

[xviii] “Las Vegas Hotel Meets the Issue,” April 13, 1912, Clark County Review, Page one

Two Nevada Fire Stations listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Two Nevada Fire Stations listed in the National Register of Historic Places

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 9, 2018                             

CONTACT: Rebecca Palmer, 775-684-3443

CARSON CITY, Nev. – Today, the National Park Service (NPS) listed the Ely City Hall and Fire Station in Ely, and the Pioche Fire House in Pioche in the National Register of Historic Places. The NPS also approved Fire Stations of Nevada, a special report on historic fire stations in Nevada produced by the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office. The report, called a multiple property documentation form (MPDF), provides a history of firefighting and fire station architecture in Nevada, and establishes registration requirements for historic fire stations, making it easier for community members to nominate their eligible fire stations to the National Register. The National Register is the nation’s official list of places worthy of preservation, recognizing important places and potentially qualifying them for certain grants and tax incentives.

The practice of firefighting and the construction of fire stations became a standard element of every community in Nevada by the late-nineteenth century. From professional fire stations in urban environments, such as Las Vegas and Reno, to rural volunteer fire departments in communities like Pioche and Winnemucca, firefighting became, and remains, an essential public service in Nevada. Early firefighters advocated for the adoption of building codes, and developed new methods and equipment to fight fires. They also became noteworthy emblems of public service and volunteerism, often being community-supported and, even today, primarily reliant on volunteers. Most of Nevada’s communities have an historic fire station, even if it is no longer used by its fire department. Many historic fire stations have been successfully adapted for new uses, such as offices or restaurants.

As a result of the MPDF Fire Stations of Nevada, both the Ely City Hall and Fire Station, and the Pioche Fire House, have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Ely City Hall and Fire Station was recognized for its role as the seat of the City of Ely’s government from its construction in 1929 to the present, as well as its role as the headquarters for Ely’s Fire Department from 1929 to 1999. The Pioche Fire House was recognized for its role as the headquarters for the Pioche Fire Department from 1928 to 1954, when a larger, more modern station replaced it. The Pioche Fire Department, now a district in the Lincoln County Fire Protection District, still owns the historic fire house near the intersection of Main Street and Lacour Street.

Residents of Nevada who wish to nominate historic fire stations in their community to the National Register using this report are encouraged to contact the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in Carson City. A copy of the report can be found on the SHPO website at: http://shpo.nv.gov/contexts.

Rise and fall of the Nevada Biltmore. One of 4 Las Vegas resorts built 1941-1942.

(updated February 3, 2018)

  • Motel owner Tom Hull opens the western themed Hotel El Rancho Vegas, on evening of April 3, 1941.
  • The El Cortez hotel-casino with its western motif opens to the public at 6:00 p.m. on November 7, 1941.
  • Famed Hollywood restaurant owner Bob  Brooks opens south seas themed Nevada Biltmore in Las Vegas June 20, 1942
  • October 30, 1942 the western themed Last Frontier Hotel Casino opened.

The four Las Vegas resorts would stand alone until the end of World War Two.

Today, the only one standing is the El Cortez Hotel-casino and it is on the national register of historic places. https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/AssetDetail?assetID=fef848c8-5040-44ca-9bb5-3d90bb9e3475

The histories of El Cortez,  the El Rancho Vegas and the Last Frontier are remembered, in part because of their locations on the Las Vegas strip.  (A quick tangent.  In recent years, the history of the El Cortez because of its owners progressive thinking by adding the resort to the national register of historic places, has been written about extensively.   But there is a lot more to be told, a major change in the social entertainment structure, as well as secret ownership, and we don’t mean Bugsy, that is no secret, nor Meyer, or Sedway, we will just “string” you along on that story.)

Today’s story is about the less known of the four, the Nevada Biltmore.   Less known today,  in part because of its location on North Main Street in downtown Las Vegas.  At the time of its opening it was an important U.S. highway intersection.

Here is a short, but detailed history, with sources that can be used to expand the history of this unique resort.

The Las Vegas Review Journal carried a story on page six of its June 20, 1942 edition announcing the opening of the Nevada Biltmore Hotel under the caption; “Seven Seas Room to Open This Eve.”

The story read, “The colorful Seven Seas room at the new Nevada Biltmore Hotel will be opened this evening at North Main and Bonanza Road, it was announced today by Bob Brooks, owner.” [i]

“Brooks” the newspaper story said, was the ” owner of the Somerset House in Beverly Hills and the Seven Seas in Hollywood, revealed that Johnny Bush[ii] will be in charge of the casino, Eddie Bush, famous Hawaiian band leader, will have charge of the music and Al Smith, noted chef from the Somerset House will supervise the preparation of the food.” [iii]

The newspaper story added, “The decorations of the Seven Seas are both unusual and authentic featuring paintings of the exquisite oils from Tahiti on a background of velvet.” [iv]

 The pool was visible from the from the intersection Main and Bonanza Streets, which was also where  two U.S. Highways, U.S. 91 and 95 connected.  A popular place for locals.  As a child, U.S. Senator Richard Bryan learned to swim in this pool.

The gaming casinos, cocktail lounge and dining room are all done in South Sea Island motif and one of the interesting decorations is a surf board presented to Brooks by the noted Hawaiian swimmer, Duke Kahanamoku.  The board is covered with the autographs of celebrities.” [v]

“The cocktail lounge will specialize in widely known and colorful rum drinks, Brooks’ reports.” [vi]

January 1, 1943 Brooks leases Biltmore to Mr. and Mrs. Clarence P. Martin

Less than six months after opening the hotel Bob Brooks leased the operation, with the exception of the casino, to the Martins.

The January 1, 1943 issue of the Las Vegas Review Journal, on page two, published a story with the caption “Nevada Biltmore Leased to Martin.”   The story said “The Nevada Biltmore hotel, one of Las Vegas’ newest hostelries, has been leased by the owner, Bob Brooks, to Mr. and Mrs. Clarence P. Martin, recently of southern California, but formerly of Florida it was announced today.” [vii]

“The new mangers took over the entire hotel operation today, except the casino, which will continue to be operated by Brooks, Martin said.” [viii]

“Special service for Las Vegas residents will be a feature at the hotel under the new management, with emphasis on luncheons, bridge parties, and private entertainment, it was announced.  Floor shows will be a regular attraction in the dining room.” [ix]

“Martin, who spent 18 years at sea as chief steward on passenger liners, plans to introduce many specialty dishes which were favorites with world travelers.” [x]

“Mr. and Mrs. Martin for many years operated hotels in Miami Beach, Florida.  About one and one half years ago they moved to California and leased the Alessandro hotel in Hemet, California, which had a big success under their management.  They sold out after several months ago and purchased the lease on the famous Hotel Casa de Manana in La Jolla, California.  Recently they disposed of their holdings there to move to Las Vegas and take over the Nevada Biltmore hotel.” [xi]

 May, 1943, Brooks leases property to Del Mar Corporation and it’s President Hernando Courtright.

The Del Mar Corporation, its President Hernando Courtright, signed a five year lease with Brooks for Biltmore in May of 1943 for $31,000.

The “Casino Equipment” inventory included;

“7 Cherry bell Chrome front slot machines. Serial Nos.

458-218-5 cents

460-370-5 cents

458-250-5 cents

448-765-25 cents

468-077-25 cents

468-296-25 cents

448-850-10 cents

“2  21 Tables (Noll & Co.)

1 crap table  9 ½ by 4 ½

1 Roulette table (carved head)

1 Console 4-Bell Machine # P.J.-4141”

1 complete set checks for roulette table,

1 complete set of markers

12 Coral leather upholstered seat and back casino stools.”[xii]

 September, 1943 A. L. Leesone listed as “Manager” of Nevada Biltmore Hotel

Another change of hands for the Biltmore operation.   A display advertisement in the September 8, 1943 issue of the Las Vegas Evening Review Journal lists  “A. L. Leesone, Manager,” of the Nevada Biltmore Hotel. [xiii]

And, Leesone time in management was short.

October, 1943, Brooks announces his “return” to the Biltmore with new “Hotel Managers,” the Kehrlein’s.

Brooks announced  in the October 4, 1943 issue of the Las Vegas Evening Review Journal.

The advertisement was “announcing the return of Bob Brooks’ owner of the Nevada Biltmore Hotel.”  In addition Brooks also listed Mary and Emil Kehrlein as “Hotel Managers,” and Johnny Hughes as “casino managers.”[xiv]

Brooks takes out display advertisement September 1944  Biltmore “has not been sold and is not for sale.”

Bob Brooks, in a display advertisement in the September 8, 1944 issue of the Las Vegas Review Journal declared;

“NOTICE Contrary to reports, the Nevada Biltmore Hotel has not been sold and is not for sale.  No other party or parties have any interest in the business except myself.  I am the sole owner and operator.  I have always had faith in the future of Las Vegas and I still hold that faith.  I like the people of this community and the climate and western hospitality of Southern Nevada.  Las Vegas is my home and I pledge to you good people the finest in entertainment, tasty drinks and excellent food amid comfortable surroundings.  It will be a pleasure to personally greet you and your friends. BOB BROOKS.”[xv]

A month after taking announcing the resort was not for sale, Brooks solid it.

Brooks sells Nevada Biltmore November, 1944 to G.E. Kinsey

While announcing the resort had “not been sold” Brooks was clearly in discussion to sell the property.

On November 1, 1944 Brooks along with G.E. and Mattie Kinsey filed papers with the county detailing the sale. The sale would not become public for two weeks, on November 14.

Brooks made the announcement to his staff and friends at what was described as a “farewell dinner,” on the evening of Monday, November 13, 1944. [xvi]

The general public got the official word when they picked up their morning newspaper.[xvii]

The cities two newspapers reported the “transaction” involved “properties valued in excess of $600,000.” [xviii]

By the afternoon of November 14, 1944 more details were revealed when W. H. Grunwald, representing the Kinsey’s told reporters, “We intend to make the Nevada Biltmore a real part of the city of Las Vegas.  We want to bring it into the city of Las Vegas and make it a place where the people of the community can meet and enjoy wholesome entertainment and good food.”  [xix]

Grunwald added, “as soon as the government restrictions are eased so we can get material, we expect to make improvements at the hotel.  We intend to have the Nevada Biltmore take its place alongside the other fine establishments which this community well can boast.” [xx]

As part of the deal, Brooks would acquire “the Westchester apartment hotel, a class-A, seven story structure on Pico Street in Los Angeles.” [xxi]

At the time of the sale, George Kinsey was reported to be “quite widely known in Las Vegas, having been a regular visitor to this area since 1940.  He became interested in the Las Vegas area though Bill Froelich, Ford dealer of southern California, and Frank Muller, wealthy laundry man of the Los Angeles area, who brought him her firs for a fishing trip on Lake Mead.” [xxii]

Kinsey retained Jack Walsh to run the Hotel, and Johnny Hughes, to run the gambling side of the Nevada Biltmore.  Hughes described in the Kinsey announcement as a “popular casino manager” was first hired by Brooks when he opened the resort in 1942.[xxiii]

 

 

 

 

 

Hughes, seen here in a sketch by well known Reno graphic artist Lew Hymers, would open his own place on U.S. 91, “The Players.”

 

 

 

 

A review of the casino inventory provides an inside into the scale of the gambling operation.

Based on the casino inventory it appears Kinsey added one 5 cent Bell slot machine, a console 4-bell machine,  and put in a large crap table, from a 4 ½ x 9 to a 4 ½ x 12 foot.

    The “Casino Equipment” inventory included;

“8 Cherry bell Chrome front slot machines. Serial Nos.

465-863-5 cents

458-218-5 cents

460-370-5 cents

458-250-5 cents

448-765-25 cents

468-077-25 cents

468-296-25 cents

448-850-10 cents

“2  21 Tables (Noll & Co.)

1 crap table   4 ½ x 12’

1 Roulette table (carved head)

1 complete set checks for roulette table, 2 complete sets of markers.

1 Console 4-Bell Machine # P.J.-4141

14 upholstered seat and back casino stools – upholstered in sheepskin fabric.”[xxv]

 18 months later,  in April of, 1946, Kinsey sells Nevada Biltmore to Horace Heidt, famous band leader.

“Horace Heidt, nationally famous band leader…has purchased the Nevada Biltmore hotel in Las Vegas, it was announced” Sunday, April 28, 1946 “by Thomas Campbell, who represents Kinsey in all Las Vegas operations and who handled the Biltmore deal for him.”[xxvi]

“While the purchase price was not announced, definitely, it is understood that Heidt paid George E. Kinsey, former owner $500,000 for the entire facilities.”

The band leader  told the Review Journal “Jack Walsh definitely would remain as manager of the hotel.”

Heidt immediately began looking for investors, as he had little interest in running the property.

December, 1946, Heidt Sells half Interest in Biltmore and Jack Walsh returns as General Manager of the Biltmore, Heidt reveals change in casino operation.

Horace Heidt, owner of the Nevada  Biltmore hotel, announced the week of December 19, 1946 that he had sold a half interest in the hotel to Jules Le Baron, described at the time as the son of William LeBaron, French film director working in Hollywood.[xxvii]

Heidt said he made the change because he was getting his band back together for a featured spot on a radio broadcast in 1947. [xxviii]

Heidt said at the time that he would return to Las Vegas on a regular basis to assist in the operation of the hotel. [xxix]

Heidt announced on December 19, 1946, “Jack Walsh, prominent Las Vegas hotel man, has been hired as manager of the Nevada Biltmore and will return to the duties he had earlier this year at the hotel. Walsh recently returned from Del Mar, California, where he operated the famous hostelry there.”[xxx]

Heidt also announced “Earl Jones will continue as casino manager and Joe Devereaux will be in charge of the bar as in the past, Heidt said.” [xxxi]

That quickly changed Heidt cuts deal with national known east coast nightclub operator, Frank Barbaro.

On February 5, 1947, Ralph Stoughton and Frank Barbaro signed a one year lease to operate the hotel.

The name of the entertainment area of the resort would be  changed to the “Bowery-Biltmore” to reflect Barbaro’s plans for the business. [i]

Barbaro, a Detroit nightclub owner, was in Las Vegas to get a divorce. [ii]

He billed himself as “known from coast to coast” and “your host from coast to coast.”

Barbaro said met Stoughton who came up with the idea of the two of them forming a partnership to take over the Nevada Biltmore. [iii]

 

 

 

Barbaro began advertising the resort  as “Frank Barbaro’s Bowery.”  The Biltmore Bowery opened on April 30, 1947 with Martha Raye.[iv]

 

 

As far as Barbaro got with his name change is seen in this publicity shot with Barbaro in the middle, and just above his head is the neon script letter “Barbaros Bowery.”

 

Barbaro take over made the national enternament news outlets. From “Hollywood Nite-Life” April 25, 1947, page 12, a column “Las Vegas Life” by Melba Arnold.

“Personality of the week-Frank Barbaro, affable owner of the Nevada Biltmore, has the fun-lovers jamming his night spot despite the fact that he is in the process of drastically remodeling the famous dining room.  Guests purr happily surrounded by stripped walls and raw ceilings while enjoying the sparling wit of Ben Blue and his Hollywood Revue.  The grand opening of the Bowery Room is slated for 30th of this month with Martha Raye in charge of the merrymaking.”

Page 15 of the same issue has a photograph of Barbaro with the caption, “Frank Barbaro.  Thar’s a handsome cowhard in that thar Las Vegas these days by the tag of Frank Barbaro. He hails from the fair city of Detroit where he was lord and master of the swank Bowery Café.  Mr. Barbaro recently purchased the Nevada Biltmore and immediately began doing things in a large way, namely throwing $50,000 into revamping the hotel’s boite which he will name the Bowery Café, natch.”

“Frank has appointed a well-known and much-liked gent by the name of Jack Walsh to manage his beautiful bistro.  Mr. Walsh began his duties duly by announcing the Bowery would purvey nothing but big time talent inside its portals, and to prove this he signed Ben Blue, who is now taking bows in the Bowery.  Next on the list of big acts is Martha Raye who starts April 30th.  Leo Carrillo with the Ben Yost Troupe makes their entry May 14th.  Mr. Barbaro also signed Jack Ponds, a very talented MC and comic as a regular at his sipping heaven.”

In May of 1947 Barbaro filed for divorce in Las Vegas.  His wife and children were living in Detroit.  [v]

The decree, granted by Judge A. S. Henderson, “transferred title to his million dollar” Bowery Club in Detroit to his wife and “gave her the expensive home and furnishing.” [vi]

Barbaro’s national press did little to change the direction the Biltmore was headed. That change lasted for a few months.

In its future were two more efforts to keep the resort alive.  The first step was in early 1949 provide service for the African American community, locals and tourists, who were without access to any of the major resorts.

The Las Vegas Review Journal reported on July 19, 1949, “the ill-fated operation of the Nevada Biltmore hotel as a colored resort for the past five weeks ended abruptly today, as the place was ordered closed by Homer W. Snowden, a stockholder of the Texas-Nevada corporation, which has attempted to operate the hostelry since May 1” 1949.[xxxii]

A full story on the short, but historic integration of the Nevada Biltmore will be featured on this site.

  Biltmore Closed by Snowden July 19, 1949 To open under new name and as a motel

A public announcement was made,  “Negotiations were underway between the former owners of the Biltmore, Louis Wiener, Jr., Mahlon Brown, James Still and Carl Amante and band leader Horace Heidt, to reopen the place as a deluxe motel.” [xxxiii]

“Weiner said if he and his partners again take over the Biltmore, the name will be changed and its operation as a hotel will cease in favor of a motel venture.  He reasoned that as the biggest motel in Las Vegas and the only one with a swimming pool, the operation would stand an excellent chance of running successfully.” [xxxiv]

It was revealed that Heidt still holds a $180,000 mortgage on the Biltmore and “does not want to operate the hotel and is instead only in a deal which will get his money out of it.” [xxxv]

Gambler, Carl Amante said “we want to make this the most unique motel in Las Vegas.”[xxxvi]

Heidt once again had direct control of the property.

One of Amante’s partners, Wiener, said he was talking with Heidt and the band leader is “coopering with us 100 percent.” [xxxvii]

The deal with Wiener and Amante’s group did not work out.

A new set of owners, and this time a name change which did not provide luck to anyone involved.

 

 

In 1948 Clem Malone, who had come to Nevada to work on the construction of Hoover Dam,ran for the Clark County Commission.

According to the Clark County Government’s official web site, Malone “easily won a seat on the commission in that election.”

The next year, 1949, Malone and others took over the Nevada Biltmore and changed the name to the Shamrock Hotel.  Malone and his partners operated it for a number of years.

Shortly after aquiring the Bilmore, Malone contacted the same Massahcutres post card company that created the pool side view, to update the title of the resort.

The name change did not allow Malone to see the evil spirits that were in his future.   Like the hotel, Malone’s political career was filled with trouble.

Again, from the official Clark County government web site, “Malone’s time on the commission was filled with contention. In 1950, he was charged with soliciting bribes from George Crockett at the airport. Malone claimed that James Cashman, Frank Gusewelle, and A.E. Cahlan were setting him up.”[vii]

In 1950, Malone filed to run for governor. He lost his bid in the primary, and then lost his county commission seat in May of 1951.

Losing is stake in the Shamrock, Malone filed bankruptcy in 1954.

The hotel would eventually become the Shamrock Furniture store.

Today a lone palm tree marks the spot of one of the “swank” hotels of Las Vegas in the 1940’s.

The Biltmore’s original builder Bob Brooks would take the money for the sale of the resort and begin buying property on what would become the Las Vegas Strip.

He and Moe Dalitz would soon become close friends.

[i] “Seven Seas Room To Open This Eve,” June 20, 1942, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page six.

[ii] Note the newspaper story said that Brooks said that Johnny Bush would be in charge of the casino.  The display advertisement in the same issue of the newspaper named the casino boss as Johnny Hughes, a well-known local gaming figure.

[iii] “Seven Seas Room To Open This Eve,” June 20, 1942, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page six.

[iv] “Seven Seas Room To Open This Eve,” June 20, 1942, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page six.

[v] “Seven Seas Room To Open This Eve,” June 20, 1942, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page six.

[vi] “Seven Seas Room To Open This Eve,” June 20, 1942, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page six.

[vii] “Nevada Biltmore Leased to Martin,” January 1, 1943, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page two.

[viii] “Nevada Biltmore Leased to Martin,” January 1, 1943, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page two.

[ix] “Nevada Biltmore Leased to Martin,” January 1, 1943, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page two.

[x] “Nevada Biltmore Leased to Martin,” January 1, 1943, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page two.

[xi] “Nevada Biltmore Leased to Martin,” January 1, 1943, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page two.

[xii] Clark County Miscellaneous Book 19, May 20, 1943, Nevada Biltmore, pages 408-422.

[xiii]  Display advertisement, Nevada Biltmore, September 8, 1943, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page three.

[xiv] Display advertisement, Nevada Biltmore, October 4, 1943, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page five.

[xv] Display advertisement, Bob Brooks, September 8, 1944, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page eight.

[xvi] “Nevada Biltmore Owner Plans Big Development,” November 14, 1944, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page three.

[xvii] “Nevada Biltmore Sold,” November 14, 1944, Las Vegas Morning Tribune, page one, “Nevada Biltmore Owner Plans Big Development,” November 14, 1944, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page three

[xviii] “Nevada Biltmore Sold,” November 14, 1944, Las Vegas Morning Tribune, page one.

[xix] “Nevada Biltmore Owner Plans Big Development,” November 14, 1944, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page three.

[xx] “Nevada Biltmore Owner Plans Big Development,” November 14, 1944, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page three.

[xxi] “Nevada Biltmore Owner Plans Big Development,” November 14, 1944, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page three.

[xxii] “Nevada Biltmore Owner Plans Big Development,” November 14, 1944, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page three.

[xxiii] “Biltmore Plans big Expansion,” November 18, 1944, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page three.

[xxiv] “Biltmore Plans big Expansion,” November 18, 1944, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page three.

[xxv]  Clark County Miscellaneous Book 21, November 1, 1944, Biltmore Hotel, pages 261-267.

[xxvi] “Purchases Biltmore,” April 29, 1946, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page one.

[xxvii] “Heidt Sells Half Interest in Biltmore,” December 19, 1946, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page fifteen.

[xxviii] “Heidt Sells Half Interest in Biltmore,” December 19, 1946, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page fifteen.

[xxix] “Heidt Sells Half Interest in Biltmore,” December 19, 1946, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page fifteen.

[xxx]  “Heidt Sells Half Interest in Biltmore,” December 19, 1946, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page fifteen.

[xxxi] “Heidt Sells Half Interest in Biltmore,” December 19, 1946, Las Vegas Evening Review Journal, page fifteen.

[xxxii]  “Biltmore closed by Snowden; change to motel is looming,” July 19, 1949, Las Vegas Review Journal, page two.

[xxxiii]  “Biltmore closed by Snowden; change to motel is looming,” July 19, 1949, Las Vegas Review Journal, page two.

[xxxiv]  “Biltmore closed by Snowden; change to motel is looming,” July 19, 1949, Las Vegas Review Journal, page two.

[xxxv]  “Biltmore closed by Snowden; change to motel is looming,” July 19, 1949, Las Vegas Review Journal, page two.

[xxxvi]  “Biltmore Hotel to Blossom with new glamor and name,” July 27, 2919, Las Vegas review Journal, page

[xxxvii]  “Biltmore Hotel to Blossom with new glamor and name,” July 27, 2919, Las Vegas review Journal, page

Second set of footnotes with the addition of the Barbaro saga.

[i]  “Frank Barbaro takes over Nevada Biltmore,” May 29, 1947, Las Vegas Review Journal, page one.

[ii] “Frank Barbaro takes over Nevada Biltmore,” May 29, 1947, Las Vegas Review Journal, page two.

[iii] “Frank Barbaro takes over Nevada Biltmore,” May 29, 1947, Las Vegas Review Journal, page two.

[iv]  Display advertisement Nevada Biltmore, April, 1947, Las Vegas Life, page twenty.

[v] “Barbaro gets divorce here,” May 26, 1947, Las Vegas Review Journal, page six.

[vi]  “Spectacular Barbaro career echoes heard in court suit,” May 28, 1948, Las Vegas Review Journal, page three.

[vii] http://www.clarkcountynv.gov/parks/Documents/centennial/commissioners/commissioner-c-malone.pdf