With over 200 restored neon signs at the Neon Museum, it’s safe to say our history is pretty lit.
We dug up some of the best stories at the Museum:
Now permanently closed, “the Riv” operated from April 1955 to May 2015 and was the first high-rise hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard. Liberace played on opening night and headlined for many years at the hotel and casino. Dean Martin often performed and even owned a stake in the business.
The Lady Luck Hotel & Casino was built in 1964 and was renovated to Downtown Grand in 2013. Right before it joined the Neon Museum, the Lady Luck sign was featured in the movie Vegas Vacation when Cousin Vicki danced on it at a party in the YESCO boneyard.
The Moulin Rouge opened in 1955 as the first integrated hotel and casino in Las Vegas; it was featured on that year’s June 20 cover of LIFE Magazine.
The same woman who designed the famed Welcome to Las Vegas sign, Betty Willis, also designed the Moulin Rouge’s Parisian-style sign.
Jerry's Nugget is the oldest family-owned casino in town. This iconic sign was featured in the PBS documentary Restoration Neon where they featured each critical stage in the restoration process, met with the craftsmen, and showed the revived, finished product at its new home in the museum.
The northwest corner of First and Fremont streets has hosted many businesses over the last 100 years, including Sassy Sally’s from 1980-1999. Originally it was the Las Vegas Pharmacy, which served local residents from about 1906-1955. In 1956, it became the Silver Palace, Las Vegas’ first two-story casino, and the first to feature “motor stairs,” or escalators. The casino changed names several times before becoming Sassy Sally’s.
Benny Binion was originally a partner in the Las Vegas Club, where he hosted a monthlong poker game that was a precursor to today’s World Series of Poker. After a disagreement over betting limits, Binion left the Las Vegas Club and bought the El Dorado Club and Apache Hotel, turning them into the Horseshoe Club, later known as Binion's Horseshoe. Binion handed out free drinks to encourage patrons to spend a long time in the casino. He sent limos to bring gamblers to his club and he became famous for accepting any bet that was laid on the table - no limits.
Lido de Paris
Lido de Paris was the iconic show that first appeared at the Stardust on the resort’s opening day in 1958. This began a 32-year run that helped solidify the showgirl as a symbol of Las Vegas culture. Choreographer Donn Arden first imported French dancers to star in the show, which helped bring a bit of Paris to Las Vegas.
The Golden Nugget was built in 1946, making it one of the oldest casinos in Las Vegas. Ten years after it opened, innovative designer Kermit Wayne of the Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) wrapped the upper floors of the Golden Nugget in neon and incandescent bulbs. The architectural form was later celebrated as the “decorated shed” in learning from Las Vegas.
In 1964, the Sahara Hotel and Casino hosted The Beatles, witnessing a spectacle on a level that was extraordinary event for Las Vegas. The band was originally set to perform at the Sahara, but the overwhelming response forced organizers to move the show to the Rotunda at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The Sahara is presently SLS Hotel & Casino Las Vegas.
New York New York
The New York-New York was one of the first signs in the museum that had special light bulbs that look like the original incandescent, but are uniquely shaped compact fluorescent bulbs.
The Desert Rose was one of the few motels on the Strip to welcome pets. There were two long-haul truck drivers who always stayed at the Desert Rose – with their pet chimpanzees.
Treasure Island Skull
Treasure Island opened in 1993, the same year that also marked the opening of MGM Grand and the demolition of the iconic Dunes Hotel and Casino. With the family-friendly era now in full swing, Treasure Island symbolized a resurrected Las Vegas. Guests were drawn to the resort by pirate battles staged in Buccaneer Bay and an enormous double-sided pylon sign reminiscent of a pirate ship, with a skull and crossbones attached.
Liberace opened his museum on Tropicana Avenue in 1979. He built it to house his extravagant collection of bejeweled costumes, cars and antiques in order to raise money for a scholarship program for students of the performing and creative arts. The restored sign in the boneyard is a neon version of Liberace’s signature, including a candelabra and a piano under his name. The sign’s restoration was featured in the PBS documentary, Restoration Neon.
Since the neon beginning, the best stories have always been Vegas stories. Visit the Neon Museum for more information about the restored signs and Las Vegas history.