The original Las Vegas was built around Fremont Street, downtown, and started to take off during the Great Depression (yep, that’s ironic) when casino gambling was legalized and construction began on the nearby Hoover Dam.
The real casino building boom on Fremont took place in the post-war years and at least six of these locations are still standing. We’ve listed our favorite quintessential modernist era Hotel & Casinos keeping in mind that many changes have been made to these properties over the years… click on addresses below for Google Map locations, or check out this cool walking map courtesy of Ladah Law.
The Plaza Hotel & Casino (1 S. Main Street) – Originally named the Union Plaza for the Union Pacific railroad terminal that stood here, this was once the largest casino in the world when it opened in 1971. Designed by modernist architects Walter Zick and Harris Sharp.
Golden Gate Hotel & Casino (1 Fremont Street) – Originally opened as the Hotel Nevada in 1906, then rebuilt as the Sal Sagev in the mid ’30s, the Golden Gate (renamed in 1955 by investors from San Francisco) is the oldest hotel & casino in the city and is famous for introducing shrimp cocktail to Las Vegas in 1959. The building’s 1930s facade is visible from S. Main Street and it has one of the best animated neon signs in the city.
Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino (129 Fremont Street) – Built just after World War II in 1946, modernist architect Walter Zick has been credited with additions and redesigns dating from 1949-1959. The Casino is featured in the 1971 James Bond film, Diamonds are Forever.
Four Queens Hotel & Casino (202 Fremont Street) – The Four Queens opened in the swinging mid 60s and although the addition of the Viva Vision Video Screen overhead has obscured a lot of the building’s cool mid-century qualities, its iconic neon sign is still visible, plus there’s an amazingly intact parking structure around the back which is a must-see for modernists.
Fremont Hotel & Casino (200 Fremont Street) – Designed by Wayne McAllister in 1956, the Fremont Hotel was the tallest building in Nevada when it opened. Modernist architect Walter Zick worked on expansions to the building in 1964.
El Cortez Hotel & Casino (600 Fremont Street) – Opened in 1941, the El Cortez was the first “resort” hotel & casino built in downtown Las Vegas and is also one of the oldest; having continuously operated from the same location for over 75 years.
Bonus! – For a guided walking tour of vintage Fremont Street’s offerings (and more!), visit Las Vegas Pop Culture Tours, led by locals with a passion for, well… Vegas pop culture!
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