In August 2015 we visited Reno, NV. What a great collection of old motels in Reno. Many of the motels are still open for business and looking strong, some are looking the worse for wear, and a few are now closed and may soon disappear. The state of these Reno motels in 2015 seems similar to the condition of the motels in Las Vegas 10-15 years ago. We photographed over 50 motels in downtown Reno, along the old US 40 (Fourth Street), and along US 395 (Virginia Street). What a wonderful experience to rediscover these motels.

Check out the new additions and Thanks for visiting!

In 1988 my friend Pete, recognizing the uniqueness of Las Vegas motels, shot this great video. It was on one of our gambling trips to the El Cortez. We didn't have expensive equipment back then, but we're glad we captured the beauty of these motels.

Las Vegas Motels

Las Vegas was a vital water stop along the train route connecting Los Angeles to Salt Lake City. It was also an important stop for automobile travelers. There were two main routes through Las Vegas. Highway 91 cut across Southern Nevada in a south-to-north trajectory. Once it crossed Fremont Street, it became the Arrowhead highway. The other way to Las Vegas was across Route 66 to Kingman, Arizona, then north crossing Hoover Dam, dropping down to the Boulder Highway and on to Fremont Street. Travelers who braved the heat and the wind to arrive at their destination were accommodated in small motels around Las Vegas. Along East Fremont street, on South and North Las Vegas Blvd, and downtown, blocks of independently-owned mom-and-pop motels sprang up. During the summers in the 1960's my family often traveled from CA to stay in these motels while our father worked at the Nevada Test Site.

Holiday Motel on Las Vegas Blvd South (2008)

Each motel had its own personality. Almost all had an identifying roadside sign, often of neon, to lure travelers. More importantly for us kids, almost all had strategically placed swimming pools to beckon us. Las Vegas motels were generally long, low repetitive room units on a large piece of roadside property. Two-story units had a balcony linking the rooms and overlooking the parking lot or pool. Decorative railings enhanced each motel’s individuality.

East Fremont Street at East Charleston Blvd (2008)

In the ever-evolving landscape that is Las Vegas, you can never be sure what has survived from year to year. Forunately, as the boom in building casinos has moved to the southern end of the Strip, motels from the 1950's and 1960’s near downtown and on Fremont Street have been able to survive in relative obscurity.

Alicia #1, formerly Motel Las Vegas (2008)

Some motels have been kept up and are still popular with visitors. But many have fallen on hard times and have become rent-by-the-week (or hour) establishments, some popular with prostitutes and drug dealers. Other motels stand abandoned, awaiting demolition when the time (if ever) is right. In some cases blocks of adjacent motels have been combined under a single original name, or worse, for example, Alicia #1, Alicia #2, Alicia #3 (formerly Motel Las Vegas, Fremont Motel, and Star View Motel). For the most part, the great neon signs (at least the neon glass) are gone. But a few good examples remain.

Yucca Motel on Las Vegas Blvd South (2008)

By combining a collection of Las Vegas motel postcards from the 1950's and 1960's with photos taken on recent trips to Las Vegas, I have assembled Las Vegas Motels - Then and Now. It was easy to match up postcards with many of today's motels. In other cases it was more challenging, esp. as motel names have changed, facades have been altered, street address numbers have been updated, etc. Some essential resources for exploring were Las Vegas telephone directories from the early 60's. We also visited the Nevada State Museum to review the 1962 version of the Sanborn fire insurance maps.

1962 Las Vegas Sanborn map overview

In the Then and Now sections I have linked the associated Sanborn image to the postcard images. The numbered locations of each motel are shown in extracts from a 1966 Las Vegas roadmap. I continue to add more motels as I locate the hard-to-find postcards.

Detailed Sanborn map image showing Bagdad and Glenn Vegas motels

Next time you are in Las Vegas and looking for something fun to do, besides eating at the Golden Steer, try taking a driving tour (during the day) of Las Vegas motels. See if you can recognize them from their postcards!

Stefani Drives Vegas
15 November
2010