When most people think of Las Vegas, they picture the glow of the vibrant strip, the magnificent and spacious hotels, and the variety and splendor of the famous casinos. Today, you’re never far from the glitz and glamor of the vibrant and exciting nightlife. However, it never used to be like the Las Vegas Nevada brief history signifies.
Once a time, what is now known as Las Vegas especially most of southern Nevada was copious with water and vegetation. However, the rivers reduced and marshlands dried up over time. The once lush and vibrant wetlands turned into a scorched desert. However, water got trapped occasionally. This water used to surface the nourishing plant life and developed an oasis in the desert as well.
This oasis in the Mojave Desert was hidden to all – with the exception of some Native Americans – until 1829. That’s when a small group of explorers from Mexico discovered it and named it Las Vegas which means “the meadows” in Spanish.
Several factors in the history of Las Vegas Nevada led to its expansive growth from the 1930s to the present day. Gambling was legalized in Nevada. Railway development continued at a steady pace. And the giant Hoover Dam construction project began. All three of these factors allowed Las Vegas to expand and flourish while many other cities were stymied by the difficulties of the depression.
History of Las Vegas
When we think of Las Vegas today, we imagine the glittery lights of the Strip and the ghosts of murkier Mafia associations on every corner. However, the modern perception of the city does not tell the whole story; in fact, Vegas has one of the richest histories in terms of development and significant characters in American history.
The area we now know as Las Vegas was discovered in the 19th century, during the generalized American populace migration to the West. The land was originally considered unfit for human habitation, given the marsh-like properties of Las Vegas valley and desert-like surrounding southern Nevada. The Mexicans named the area Las Vegas, meaning “meadows” due to this unusual fauna.
However, reconsideration was taken as early settlers realized the possibility of sustained growth due to the emergence of the Colorado River; which provided an oasis in the otherwise uninhabitable Mojave Desert landscape. With this continued promise of water, settlers began to make their homes in the Valley.
Following a brief war with Mexico – who originally owned the territory – the city and its surrounding areas became United States territory in 1844. With the initial promise of sustained water from the Colorado River, to further the habitation of the area it became essential to channel the natural supply into a sustainable human resource. Plans were put in place in 1930 for a dam, which would generate both electricity and water. When originally conceived, the dam was named the Boulder Dam and was eventually renamed the Hoover Dam after organizing President Herbert Hoover. Work began on the Hoover Dam in 1931.
Perhaps more than any other factor, it is the construction of the Hoover Dam that contributed to the Las Vegas we know today. In the first few years of the dam’s construction, the population of Las Vegas swelled from 5,000 to 25,000. Most of these new inhabitants were young, single men who had traveled west to work on the dam and explore new opportunities.
As a result of this influx of young, carefree men, thoughts among the administrators of the new development soon turned to a way to entertain the workers when they were away from the dam. A combination of leading citizens – including Mormon financiers and Mafia crime lords – pooled their initiatives, and began opening attractions they felt would appeal to young male dam workers.
The first license for a casino was issued in 1931 to the Northern Club and legislation swiftly followed for matching casinos on Fremont Street. The latter introduced world-recognizable names such as the Las Vegas Club and the Apache Hotel to the Las Vegas nightlife. Along with the explosion of new ventures, Fremont Street lead the way for modern development in terms of town planning, receiving the first street lights in the area also in 1931.
Although construction of the Hoover Dam was completed before the Second World War, the city had by this point gained a reputation for being a fun, risqué city offering a wild night-life to anyone who wished to seek it. It is a reputation that lives to this day.