Skip PBS navigation bar, and jump to content.
Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

spacer above content
Maps: Putting Las Vegas on the Map

  Introduction | The West | The Region | The City | The Strip

The City Fremont Street (1905) McWilliams Township (1905) Westside (1950s) McCarran Airport (1948,1963) Las Vegas Convention Center (1959) Summerlin neighborhood (1990s)

The City of Las Vegas has continually redefined itself as a means to attract visitors: western prospectors, dam laborers, vice tourists, conventioneers, and family tourists. Beyond the ebb and flow of tourists, Las Vegas' population has changed in demographics and make-up: from old Western prospectors, to Los Angeles organized crime players, to Boulder Dam laborers, to nuclear engineers, and tourism workers. The jobs to support the growing city -- teachers, municipal workers, construction workers and real estate agents -- boosted the population further.

1 Fremont Street (1905)

Fremont Street (1905) Senator William Clark and associates set up the Las Vegas Land & Water Company to manage their new city at the railroad depot. On May 15, 1905, they operated an auction from a platform on Main Street, between Fremont and Ogden streets. By the end of May 16, about half of the lots had been sold for a total of $265,000. The railroad built a depot at Main and Fremont Street. Clark and associates decided that Fremont Street would be the major commercial avenue in the nascent city.

2 McWilliams Township (1905)

McWilliams Township (1905) John T. McWilliams was a Canadian born civil engineer that worked for the Union Pacific and William Clark. McWilliams bought eighty acres of land from Helen Stewart and set out to establish the "Original Las Vegas Townsite" on the western side of the tracks. The McWilliams Townsite was home to fifteen hundred residents and had three weekly newspapers. But Clark controlled the water rights to Stewart's ranch land. On September 5, 1905 a fire all but destroyed McWilliams Townsite.

3 Westside (1950s)

Westside (1950s) The Westside neighborhood of Las Vegas stands where McWilliams Township did, on the west side of the tracks. The neighborhood lagged behind the city on the other side of the tracks and by the 1940s, town officials began to segregate African American businesses and individuals, relocating them into Westside. In the 1950s the neighborhood was still lacking paved streets, sewers and streetlights.

4 McCarran Airport (1948,1963)

McCarran Airport (1948,1963) McCarran Airport opened in 1948 as the Clark County Public airport, on the grounds of what had been the Alamo Airport. Within ten years, Las Vegas officials feared that McCarran might become obsolete with the advent of the jet age, but they also were unsure if residents would approve a new bond to "rebuild" the airport. The business community pledged their support to an expanded airport and voters approved the bond issue in 1960. The new airport opened in 1963, and five years later was officially renamed McCarran International Airport.

5 Las Vegas Convention Center (1959)

Las Vegas Convention Center (1959) In the 1950s, on the heels of the new McCarran airport opening, city officials and casino operators looked to bring a new wave of visitors to Las Vegas: the conventioneer. A convention during the week would supplement the weekend visitors from L.A. and give hotels and casinos steady traffic, seven days a week. In 1955 the Nevada State Legislature approved the huge convention center, financed by room taxes in hotels, so that residents wouldn't feel the pinch. In April 1959 the Las Vegas Convention Center opened with a 90,000 square foot exhibit hall and 20,340 square-foot rotunda.

6 Summerlin neighborhood (1990s)

Summerlin neighborhood (1990s) Las Vegas had typically expanded its suburban development eastward from downtown and the Strip, eventually spreading out towards Henderson. In the 1980s, new planned communities began emerging west of the strip. Many of these communities were too far out to be annexed by the City of Las Vegas and existed as unincorporated towns. The city developed on an area of land owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation as a new community named Summerlin. The corporation allowed Las Vegas to annex the land in order to access its sewage treatment plants, which made development and home owning more affordable. Since the 1990s, the beautified community has grown at a quick pace, with over 3,500 residents by 2000.

page created on 7.11.05 back to top
Site Navigation

Las Vegas: An Unconventional History American Experience