Mid-century modern buildings
With the demolition of The Riviera Hotel & Casino in 2015, only four original mid-century properties remain on The Strip. Many have been rebuilt and remodeled over the years – several times – but some of their bones are still there and worth a visit, if not to stay at then to pay tribute to. These properties are listed from north to south… click on addresses below for Google Map locations.
Circus Circus – (2880 S. Las Vegas Blvd.) Designed by Homer A. Rissman, an architect who built many mid-century Strip hotels that are no longer with us (The Dunes Country Club, The Hacienda), Circus Circus opened in 1968 and was an immediate success with its free circus performances and unique tent-like structure, said to be the world’s largest permanent big top. Its iconic “Lucky the Clown” marquee was added in 1976. The bright Circus Circus porte-cochère is still a thrill to walk through, a real throwback to when marquee lights seemed to light up all of Las Vegas.
The Flamingo (3555 S. Las Vegas Blvd) – Infamous gangster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel – after taking over The Flamingo mid-construction from entrepreneur Billy Wilkerson – opened the hotel & casino (designed by George Vernon Russell under Wilkerson, and Richard R. Stadelman under Siegel) on December 26, 1946. As legend goes, it was a disaster and closed right away. A few months later The Flamingo reopened and a few months after that Bugsy Siegel was murdered. The rest, as they say, is history; The Flamingo was a hit and modern Las Vegas was born. Today, little remains of the 1940s version of the hotel but add-ons and upgrades are still present from its mid-century days plus now there’s even a Bugsy Siegel Memorial that was installed a few years ago.
Ceasars Palace (3570 S. Las Vegas Blvd.) – Thanks to a timely loan from the Teamsters Pension Fund via Jimmy Hoffa (yes, that Jimmy Hoffa), former motel owner Jay Sarno and Miami modernist architect Melvin Grossman successfully launched the first of the Las Vegas mega resorts in 1966. Allegations of organized crime ties soon followed and Sarno was forced to sell, going on to open Circus Circus in 1968. Today, you can still enjoy the original fountains and replica of the Winged Victory of Samothrace as well as the first 14 story Roman Tower (many towers have since been added), otherwise most of the 1966 facade has pretty much been replaced.
The Tropicana (3801 S. Las Vegas Blvd.) – Designed as a tropical oasis by Miami modernist architect M. Tony Sherman, The Tropicana’s ties to organized crime nearly capsized it after opening in 1957, but once new management was in place and the Folies Bergère were imported from France in 1959 (which ran for nearly 50 years!) the Tropicana took off. Many changes over the years, though, including more mob ties in the 70s, left The Trop without much personality. A recent South Beach makeover, bringing the Hotel & Casino full circle, is hoping to change that.
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