Las Vegas History

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History of Las Vegas, Nevada

Native Americans lived in the Las Vegas Valley over 10,000 years ago. Archaeologists have discovered baskets, petroglyphs and pictographs as evidence. In 1993 construction workers uncovered the remains of a Columbian Mammoth; proof of prehistoric life in the area. Paleontologists estimate the mammoth roamed the area approximately 8,000 to 15,000 years ago.

The Las Vegas Valley was later discovered in 1827 by an American explorer, Jedediah Smith. In 1829 a caravan of 60 men led by Rafael Rivera travelled from Mexico to Los Angeles. They stopped in the area and named it “Las Vegas” which was Spanish for “The Meadows.” In 1844 John C. Fremont led an expedition to the area. He is remembered to this day because Fremont-Hotel Casino and Fremont Street in Vegas both bear his name.

On May 10, 1855 Brigham Young assigned 30 missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to build a fort in Las Vegas. It was built as a half way point between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. A portion of the fort can still be seen today and is a historic site near the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard North and Washington Avenue. In 1857 the Mormons abandoned the area.

By 1905 Las Vegas was established as a railroad town. Shipped goods were sent through the area to the rest of the country. The statewide legalization of gambling in 1931 led to the building of casino-hotels, which Las Vegas is still famous for today. With the completion of the nearby Hoover Dam in 1935 more tourists and residents came to the area. Major development occurred in the 1940s as early casinos were built. The first resort on what is today’s Las Vegas Strip, El Rancho Vegas, opened in 1941. Later in 1960 El Rancho Vegas was razed by fire. The most celebrated early resort on the Strip which still stands today is the Flamingo, which opened in 1946. Resort building continued in Las Vegas in the 1950s. During this time Las Vegas also became famous for the entertainment found at the resorts.

By 1964 the population of Las Vegas reached 64,405. In the 60s multiple coin slot machines debuted and in the 70s video machines were introduced. In 1976 Atlantic City, N.J. also legalized casino-style gaming. Las Vegas casino owners knew they had to do something different to attract tourists, so they created megaresorts. Megaresorts really started to take off in 1989 and helped to create the Las Vegas Strip what it is today. Hotels began to have rides, waterslides, lagoon-like pools and animal habitats in order to attract all members of the family. The largest resort hotel in the world, MGM Grand Hotel and Theme Park opened in 1993. In 1995 The Freemont Street Experience began, a spectacular light and sound show, which still takes place today.

As of 2008 Las Vegas had an estimated population of 558,383 making it the 28th most populated city in the U.S. Las Vegas bills itself as “The Entertainment Capital of the World.”

Las Vegas Timeline

1827- Las Vegas Valley discovered by American explorer, Jedediah Smith

1829- Caravan led by Rafael Rivera stops in the area and names it “Las Vegas”

1844- John C. Fremont leads expedition to Las Vegas

1855- Mormon Missionaries build fort in Las Vegas

1905- Las Vegas established as Railroad town

1931- Gambling officially legalized in the state of Nevada

1935- Hoover Dam is completed

1941- First resort, El Rancho Vegas opens

1946- The Flamingo opens

1959- “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign is created

1989- Beginning of megaresorts

1993- Opening of MGM Grand Hotel and Theme Park, largest resort hotel in the world

1995- Fremont Street Experience begins

2005- Las Vegas celebrates 100th birthday

2008- Population is 558,383