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"Boomtown 1905" At The Springs Preserve


Fred Wasser

Original restored cottage, Las Vegas

Let’s step back in time for a moment to the Las Vegas of 1905. Imagine a vast desert. Then imagine a tiny town with a population of about 200 adventurous souls.

The epicenter of this nascent activity was at the head of Fremont Street – First and Fremont.

The Las Vegas Springs Preserve has a new exhibition opening Saturday. It’s called, “Boomtown 1905," a recreation of a downtown street. 

"Las Vegas proper, the town of Las Vegas, was a railroad company town in its early history from the early 1900s to at least 1920,” said Nathan Harper the Springs Preserve archeologist. 

Las Vegas was a stop on the regular route between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. The train was the best way to travel and move goods at the turn of the century.

Harper said the railroad company built shops to maintain and service the train engines, which brought in about 400 people. 

But a lot of people outside the railroad saw potential in our dusty corner of the Mojave Desert, according to Aaron Micallef the curator at the Springs Preserve.

“This was a growing town," he said, "It was growing quickly.”

People checking out the town for business opportunities could stay at the Lincoln Hotel. A recreation of the hotel is part of the exhibit. 

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Another recreated landmark is the town's watering hole.

“One of the places that we present in the exhibit is the Arizona Club," Micallef said, "And the Arizona Club was known as the Queen of Block 16.”

Micallef said the club was the premiere place for gambling and drinking at the time. The display at the Springs Preserve shows visitors what a saloon during Prohibition would have looked like and there is even a roulette wheel they can spin. 

“I think visitors will really appreciate how beautiful that was,” he said. 

Another part of the exhibit are not recreations but actually buildings rescued from destruction. 

Four of the original 64 railroad cottages show visitors what life in a company town would have been like. 

"They had to separate sized houses," Harper explained, "They had four-room houses and five-room houses, 913 square feet and 760 square feet."

The cottages were some of the first permanent housing in the town of Las Vegas. One of the houses will be open for visitors to walk through.  



Courtesy: UNLV Special Collections

Arizona Club, 1905, Las Vegas


UNLV Special Collections

First State Bank, Las Vegas


Springs Preserve

Recreation of Lincoln Hotel,  Las Vegas


Springs Preserve

Recreation of Train Station, Las Vegas


Fred Wasser

Recreation of guest room at Lincoln Hotel, Las Vegas


UNLV Special Collections

 Inside First State Bank, Las Vegas



Nathan Harper, Springs Preserve archeologist; Aaron Micallef, Springs Preserve curator

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