Las Vegas, often referred to as the “Entertainment Capital of the World,” known for its glitzy casinos, vibrant nightlife, and luxurious hotels. While the city is constantly evolving with new resorts and entertainment options, it also boasts a few historic landmarks that have stood the test of time. In this article, we will delve into the rich history of Las Vegas and explore the oldest hotel in the city.
The Birth of Las Vegas
Before we delve into the oldest hotel in Las Vegas, let’s take a brief look at the city’s origins. Las Vegas founded in 1905 when 110 acres of land auctioned off to create a new railroad town. The city’s early development driven by the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s and the legalization of gambling in Nevada in 1931.
The El Cortez Hotel and Casino: A Historic Landmark
When it comes to the oldest hotel in Las Vegas, the title belongs to the El Cortez Hotel and Casino. Located in downtown Las Vegas, the El Cortez has a storied history that dates back to its opening in 1941. The hotel initially named the El Cortez, but it later became known as the Hotel El Cortez and then simply the El Cortez Hotel.
The Early Years
The El Cortez built by Marion Hicks and J.C. Grayson, who were prominent businessmen in the Las Vegas area. The hotel designed by architect Marion Hicks and featured a Spanish Colonial Revival style, which was popular at the time. It boasted 59 rooms, a bar, a restaurant, and a casino.
During its early years, the El Cortez became a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. It offered a more intimate and laid-back atmosphere compared to the larger resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. The hotel’s casino featured blackjack, craps, and slot machines, providing entertainment for guests who wanted to try their luck.
Iconic Moments and Notable Guests
Over the years, the El Cortez has witnessed numerous iconic moments and hosted several notable guests. In the 1940s, the hotel’s restaurant, the Flame, gained a reputation for its delicious steaks and became a favorite dining spot for locals. The El Cortez also played a role in the rise of Las Vegas as an entertainment hub, hosting performances by renowned musicians and entertainers.
One of the most famous guests to stay at the El Cortez was the legendary comedian and actor, Jackie Gleason. Gleason often stayed at the hotel during his performances in Las Vegas and became a familiar face to both staff and guests. His presence added to the hotel’s allure and helped solidify its reputation as a popular destination.
Renovations and Modernization
Like any historic building, the El Cortez has undergone renovations and modernization over the years. In the 1950s, the hotel expanded with the addition of a new tower, increasing its room capacity. The El Cortez also embraced the neon signage trend that was popular in Las Vegas during that era, adding a distinctive neon sign that still welcomes visitors today.
In recent years, the El Cortez has undergone a series of renovations to update its facilities and amenities while preserving its historic charm. The hotel has maintained its vintage Vegas vibe, with classic casino games and a nostalgic ambiance. It has also embraced modern conveniences, such as high-speed internet access and updated rooms, to cater to the needs of contemporary guests.
Preservation of History and Heritage
The El Cortez is not only the oldest hotel in Las Vegas but also a significant part of the city’s history and heritage. The hotel has recognized as a historic landmark by the State of Nevada and the City of Las Vegas. Its preservation has been a priority for its owners and the local community, ensuring that future generations can experience the charm and elegance of old Las Vegas.
In addition to its historic significance, the El Cortez also involved in philanthropic efforts. The hotel has supported various charitable organizations and community initiatives, contributing to the welfare of the Las Vegas community.
The El Cortez Today
Today, the El Cortez continues to attract visitors from around the world. Its prime location in downtown Las Vegas allows guests to explore the vibrant Fremont Street Experience, enjoy live entertainment, and immerse themselves in the city’s rich history. The hotel offers a range of amenities, including a casino, restaurants, bars, and comfortable accommodations.
The El Cortez has managed to maintain its unique character while adapting to the changing landscape of the Las Vegas hospitality industry. It serves as a reminder of the city’s humble beginnings and the enduring allure of vintage Vegas. Whether you’re a history enthusiast or a curious traveler, a visit to the El Cortez offers a glimpse into the past and a chance to experience the nostalgic charm of old Las Vegas.
Las Vegas is a city that thrives on constant change and reinvention, but it also cherishes its historic landmarks. The El Cortez Hotel and Casino stands as atestament to the city’s rich history and has remained a beloved icon since its opening in 1941. As the oldest hotel in Las Vegas, it continues to welcome guests with its unique blend of nostalgia and modern amenities. The El Cortez’s storied past, iconic moments, and notable guests have shaped its legacy as a historic landmark in the heart of downtown Las Vegas.
With its Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, classic casino games, and a vibrant atmosphere, the El Cortez offers a glimpse into the early days of Las Vegas glamour and excitement. Its ongoing renovations and commitment to preserving its historic charm ensure that future generations can appreciate the hotel’s significance in the city’s history.
As Las Vegas evolves and new resorts emerge, the El Cortez remains a testament to the enduring spirit of the city. It serves as a reminder of the humble beginnings of Las Vegas and the pioneers who helped shape it into the entertainment capital it is today. Whether you’re a history buff, a fan of vintage Vegas, or simply seeking a unique experience, a visit to the El Cortez allows you to step back in time and immerse yourself in the essence of old Las Vegas.