Incorporation   Boulder City
City Design - Inside the Gate - Incorporation - The DocumentaryKNPB-TVPBS Online  

Boulder Dam

In the early Fall of 1931, the Hoover Dam was operational. Four years of ceaseless, deliberate work resulted in a monumental accomplishment. It was time to celebrate. President Franklin Roosevelt dedicated the site on September 30, 1935. The two-lane, winding road to the Dam was packed solid with cars. Thousands of people lined the crest of the Dam to hear Roosevelt speak.

But with the completion of the Hoover Dam, the future of Boulder City was uncertain. The Bureau of Reclamation expected a very small operations and maintenance crew to remain behind. The remainder of the town would be torn down and abandoned. The Six Companies expected to move on to another major project. No one considered the possibility that some of the residents would actually want to make Boulder City their permanent home.

Quality of life Like children living under a parent's roof, residents grew comfortable with the quality of life afforded them by the government. For more than a decade following the completion of the Dam, residents argued whether they should incorporate as a local government or not. Those in agreement with the government, largely businessmen, wanted the independence to pursue growth opportunities, such as land purchase and development. Those opposed simply wanted to maintain the status quo.

Congressman Berkeley Bunker Incorporation, though, wouldn't happen quickly. In 1946, Congressman Berkeley Bunker introduced the incorporation idea to Congress when he proposed the first Boulder City bill in Washington D.C. The opposition was so vocal that the bill never made it out of committee. In 1949 the Bureau of Reclamation called in University of Southern California Professor of Public Administration, Henry Reining to conduct public hearings about how the city was run. Reining was asked to create a report outlining an efficient plan to prepare everyone for incorporation. His report, completed in June 1950, suggested a gradual release of control over the course of several years.

In July 1951, Secretary of the Interior Oscar Chapman took the first step by issuing an executive order releasing Boulder City from the Boulder Canyon Project. Chapman's action, however, only marked the continuation of an extended process of study and planning.
Boulder City had no tax base to fund its operation. It had no democratic institutions of any kind. A community that had existed from its outset without politics suddenly became a hotbed of activity.

Boulder City had never held an election. In 1951 it conducted a vote to determine a citizens advisory committee. The majority of the elected members were against separation. Their resistance prolonged the government's reluctant presence and extended the debate about how Boulder City's future would look.

In 1953 and 1955, two Senate Subcommittee Hearings were conducted in Boulder City. But no action was taken. A variety of Boulder City bills were regularly defeated in Congress. By 1958, the debate over incorporation was nearing its end. Lobbyists from both camps traveled to Washington, D.C. to argue their case again.

The pro-incorporation lobby, resolved to end the issue, sent a number of people. The anti-incorporation side sent one man, Bruce Eaton, to plead their case. After a decade of discussion with no resolution, the government was determined to cut its ties to Boulder City once and for all. Eaton was able only to pressure Congress into modifications of the plan that allowed the retention of the ban on gambling, prostitution and liquor. He was unable to stop the final passage of the Boulder City Bill.

On September 2, 1958, President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law. After formal incorporation ceremonies in January 1960, Boulder City officially faced its uncertain future.

Nevada Humanities Committee E.L. Cord Foundation Union Pacific Foundation
Learn More Production Credits Feedback