Ironically, "Sin City" started out as a Mormon settlement. For ten thousand years, Las Vegas ("The Meadows") was a lush oasis in the desert fed by four springs. The Mormons established a community there in the 1800s. Farming and ranching thrived in the area; the Mormon's eventually moved-on, and the railroad arrived, which led to progress and growth.
Shortly after Las Vegas was established as a town, liquor and alcohol sales were restricted to an area called "Block 16", which ran along First Street between Ogden and Stewart. This section evetually became the "Red Light" district, with an assortment of saloons and brothels catering to their customer's needs. One of the most famous of the bars was the Arizona Club.
In the 1930s, Las Vegas became known as "The Gateway to Boulder Dam", as the giant concrete edifice (later to be renamed Hoover Dam) was built in Black Canyon to create Lake Mead. This is about the time that Las Vegas began to assume its blossoming reputation as a "party place". With casinos and bars already doing a bustling business in downtown, soon the El Rancho Vegas would become the first casino on what would eventually be known as the "Strip", to be followed by the Last Frontier and the Flamingo.
For decades, the Las Vegas Strip was wide and spacious--but that all began to change in the 1990s when mega-resorts and casinos became the fashion; to look at pictures from yesteryear and compare the same areas to what exists today--is quite shocking! The few old classic casinos that still exist aren't even recognizable from what they looked like in the '40s and '50s--places like the Sahara, Tropicana, the Riviera...
With all the focus on the Strip, downtown became forgotten--and so in a revitalization effort to draw customers and vacationers back to the area, the city closed off Fremont Street in the mid-'90s to create the Fremont Street Experience. It was in the '90s that Vegas began to focus more on the "family" and marketed Vegas as a place for family vacations--now, just a decade later, the move is back to the other way--with Vegas reclaiming it's heritage as an "adult" fun-oriented mecca.
At night, Las Vegas is a mirage of light in the desert against the black sky--a neon oasis, a neon paradise!--a spectacle of shapes, color, sound and giant LED screens that transport the visitor into another world.
All photos by Jay Barrymore unless otherwise noted.