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Desert Companion

Love on the move

End note: Last Frontier Hotel

The Vegas wedding is a knotty oxymoron: It’s an institution built on a sometimes-loony legacy of impulsive, implausible and ill-advised matrimonial unions — whether it was Mickey Rooney and Ava Gardner hitching up in 1942 or Britney Spears marrying, uh, whoever that one guy was in 2004. You might think it would follow that our wedding chapels are tenuous tenants in our cityscape — particularly on the Strip, that restless vein of implosion and reinvention.

Not necessarily true. Take the Little Church of the West, for instance. In a surprising show of resilience, this historic wedding chapel has packed up and moved no fewer than three times since its original construction in 1942 as part of the Last Frontier hotel-casino’s all-in-one mini-megaresort. In this 1954 photo from the Las Vegas News Bureau, it’s making its first modest voyage from the north side of the Last Frontier to the south side of the resort. The chapel’s later journeys would be longer and more arduous. In 1978, it jumped south even farther, to the Hacienda Hotel, in order to make elbow room for the Fashion Show Mall taking shape; in 1996, the chapel moved yet again — this time, out of the way of Mandalay Bay. Today it sits right across the street from the resort and has perhaps learned a lesson from the many-married: Commitment is grand, but it’s wise to keep an exit strategy in mind.

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