17 Jul Five Faves: Las Vegas Neon Museum
By Heather David
My first visit to the Las Vegas Neon Museum was in 2007. At the time, the “museum” consisted of an assortment of rescued signs in a dirt lot just north of Downtown/Fremont Street. Tours were (and still are) led by volunteers. My first experience, while casual, was nothing short of incredible. The Las Vegas Neon Museum, however, has come a long way since 2007. In addition to the Neon “Boneyard” (an outdoor space consisting of nearly two acres of thoughtfully curated signs), there is a visitor’s center in the former La Concha Motel lobby, a series of restored signs installed throughout Downtown Las Vegas, and a new exhibition space called the “North Gallery.”
Any visit to Las Vegas requires a visit to the Las Vegas Neon Museum… plain and simple. It’ll be money well spent. Here’s just a tiny taste of what you will see.
In the Boneyard … but, with over 200 signs displayed, how does one choose?
1: Moulin Rouge
The Moulin Rouge opened in 1955 as the only racially integrated hotel/casino in Las Vegas. Its bouncy neon script signage was the work of Betty Willis, a designer for Western Neon. Shortly after its opening, Life magazine celebrated on its cover the socially progressive venue. Sadly, however, the Moulin Rouge closed the same year that it opened. The once glamorous “showplace” remained vacant for decades, and fell victim to several fires. The Moulin Rouge signage ultimately found its way to the Las Vegas Neon Museum, where it is proudly displayed in the museum’s Boneyard.
2: Yucca Motel
Admittedly, I have a bias for old motel signs. Las Vegas’ Yucca Motel was built in the early 1950s before Fifth Street morphed into Las Vegas Boulevard. The motel survived some 60 years before being demolished for an empty lot. Thankfully, pieces of the motel signage now reside at the Neon Museum Boneyard. The sign’s designer is unknown but whoever built the sign was certainly skilled at bending neon. The Yucca Motel sign’s piece de resistance is a flowering yucca plant, constructed from intricate swirls of neon tubing.
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This article originally appeared in SCA Road Notes, Spring 2016, Vol. 24, No. 4.. SCA Road Notes, also known as SCA News, is a quarterly publication and a member benefit of the Society for Commercial Archeology. Back issues are available for download.