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Fremont Street walking tour takes you on a journey through classic Las Vegas.
When gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931, Hearst newspapers described Fremont Street as an endless procession of construction workers, dealers in eyeshades, and gamblers amid the sound of hammers and the clink of money. New casino licenses were limited to a three-block downtown area, with the exception of the Meadows, a plush casino outside the city limits that caught fire in 1942.
The City of Las Vegas has created a walking tour of “Glitter Gulch,” as it came to be known. Important stops are included in a 22x17-inch fold-up Arts Map, available at all of the city’s cultural and community centers and at most Clark County libraries. The map will be featured on artslasvegas.org, which will have instructions on how to request a map by mail, or you can print this page for abbreviated directions.
The Fremont Street Walking Tour takes you on a journey through classic Las Vegas. Like most things Vegas, downtown shows best at night, when the Fremont Street Experience and the Fremont East District light up.
Time: One to four hours—depending on interest, libations, and distractions.
Parking: Complimentary validated parking at most hotel/casinos; Fremont Street Experience Garage, entrance on Fourth (fee/validation required); Neonopolis garage, entrance on Fourth (fee/validation required); street metered parking.
A — Art
C — Cultural
H — Historic
R — Architecture
A C H—MAIN STREET STATION ARTIFACTS, 200 North Main Street. Ask for the Main Street Station “Guide to Artifacts, Antiques, & Artworks” for a self-guided walking tour of the Main Street Station collection, which includes a refurbished Pullman parlor car, stained glass from Lillian Russell’s Pittsburgh mansion, bronze doors from the Kuwait Royal bank, and a large portion of the Berlin Wall.
H—HISTORICAL MARKER, near 1 South Main Street. First (Union Pacific) train depot and site of the 1905 Las Vegas Land Auction.
H—GOLDEN GATE HOTEL & CASINO, 1 Fremont Street. The Golden Gate Casino is Las Vegas’ oldest hotel-casino still in operation. The hotel opened January 13, 1906, under the name Hotel Nevada, when room and board was $1 per day. Over the years, the Golden Gate (the moniker the hotel adopted in 1955 after a series of other names) would be the site of a number of Las Vegas firsts, including the first telephone and first shrimp cocktail. The hotel still serves 99-cent shrimp cocktails.
A H—CENTENNIAL MURAL, 1 Fremont Street. “Glamorous Gamers of the Past,” photographs by Diane Bush, are installed in the upper story windows of the Golden Gate Hotel. The images on translucent vinyl panels face Fremont Street and represent historical figures who stayed at the hotel in different eras.
A C H—SASSY SALLY, 20 Fremont Street. Glitter Gulch’s neon cowgirl was designed by Ad-Art and installed in 1980. Sassy Sally underwent the name change to “Vegas Vicky” as a tribute to the famous “Vegas Vic.”
A C H—VEGAS VIC, 25 Fremont Street. In 1951 the Pioneer Club erected this sign, using the “Howdy Pardner” trademark symbol of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. Built by Young Electric Sign Company, it is one of the oldest, and certainly the best known, of the city’s giant neon signs.
H—HISTORICAL MARKER, corner of Ogden Avenue and First Street. Explains the Notorious Block 16.
H R—APACHE HOTEL/BINION’S, 128 Fremont Street. Designed by noted architect A. L. Worswick in 1932, the Apache was for many years regarded as Las Vegas’ plushest hotel. It boasted 100 rooms, the first elevator, and was air-cooled. Las Vegas residents who were used to hanging wet sheets in front of a fan on days when the thermometer reached triple digits would fill the hotel lobby to escape the summer heat. The hotel still stands behind the enveloping signs of Binion’s Gambling Hall and Hotel.
H—HISTORICAL MARKER, near 128 Fremont Street. Details the history of Fremont Street.
A—CENTENNIAL MURAL, 200 Fremont Street. (on the Third Street side). “Pyramid at Red Rock Canyon,” by Ozzy Villate. A desert tableau on acrylic showing hilly peaks becoming gigantic dice in a surreal topographic landscape of the Red Rock Canyon area.
H—HISTORICAL MARKER, near 300 Fremont Street. Atomic Testing at the Nevada Test Site.
H R—POST OFFICE/FEDERAL BUILDING, 301 East Stewart Street. This neo-classical structure was completed in 1933 as part of the federal government’s massive building program begun under Herbert Hoover. It is now owned by the City of Las Vegas. The building was the site of the McCarran-Greenspun trials, as well as the Kefauver hearings into organized crime. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The site is currently being restored to accommodate a Las Vegas history museum, which will focus on how the Mob influenced Las Vegas.
H R—EL PORTAL THEATER, 310 East Fremont Street. Constructed in 1928 by Salt Lake City builders Ryberg and Sorenson, the El Portal was Las Vegas’ first modern movie theater. Owners William Pike and future Las Vegas Mayor Ernie Cragin spent $150,000 on the once elegant and luxurious facility, which included box seats with leather chairs. Now home to a gift shop, the hacienda-style exterior is all that remains of the movie house’s historic architecture.
A—CENTENNIAL MURAL, 425 Fremont Street Parking Garage. “Nitelite,” a wall-mounted light mural/sculpture by Mary Waner and Rayann Figler.
C—FREMONT STREET EXPERIENCE, Fremont Street from Main to Fourth streets. This project blends vintage Las Vegas with high-tech, live entertainment. A giant LED screen canopy towers 90 feet above a pedestrian mall and is home to Viva Vision with more than 12 million lights. Shows appear nightly on the hour beginning at dusk and are free.
A H—NEON MUSEUM, Fremont Street Experience. The museum features 11 refurbished neon signs from old casinos and other businesses, which can be seen 24 hours a day in outdoor “galleries” along the Fremont Street Experience and on the Third Street cul-de-sac adjacent to the Fremont Street Experience canopy.
C—FREMONT EAST DISTRICT, Fremont Street from Las Vegas Boulevard to Eighth Street. An evolving six-block entertainment district with a retro ’50s vintage Vegas-style streetscape, with a Vegas spin on live music, cocktail lounges, and urban chic.
H R—EL CORTEZ HOTEL & CASINO, 600 Fremont Street. The El Cortez was downtown’s first major resort, built in 1941 by Marion Hicks and John Grayson at a cost of $245,000. In late 1945, the El Cortez was purchased by a group of underworld investors for $600,000. The group include: Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Meyer Lansky, Gus Greenbaum, Willie Alderman, Davie Berman, and Moe Sedway, among others. Six months later in 1946, Siegel and partners sold the El Cortez for a $166,000 profit and reinvested the money in a new hotel being built on the Strip called the Flamingo.