A Look Back At Las Vegas Beginnings As It Celebrates 100 Years - Thursday 12th of May 2005

The past 100 years have been great to Las Vegas. We've seen a tiny railroad town turn into a bustling city, filled with casino mega resorts which attract millions of tourists each year. Over the last 25 years of Las Vegas' history, we've seen a lot of change, especially in the skyline of the strip.

It was out with the old and in with the new for Las Vegas casinos, but this time period got off to a rough start with one of the worst fires in history. November 21st, 1980, one of the worst fires in Las Vegas' history, 84 people were killed when a fire started inside the MGM Grand Hotel. Eight years later, another fire, only this one started with a huge explosion in the desert. The Pepcon rocket fuel plant exploded sending a huge fire ball and dust cloud into the sky.

A host of entertainers took to the main stage at Las Vegas showrooms -- Frank Sinatra headlined at the Golden Nugget, Don Rickles laughed it up at the Sahara, and Dolly Parton sang her home town tunes at the Riviera. At the time, she was making 350-thousand dollars a week, and was the highest paid Las Vegas entertainer.

In the 90's, a change of hands for Las Vegas casinos -- Harrah's took over the Holiday Inn on the strip. Then, in an explosive move, it was out with the old and in with the new:

  • Dunes implosion: 1993
  • Landmark implosion: 1995
  • Sands implosion: 1996
  • Aladdin implosion: 1998
  • Hacienda implosion: 1997
  • El Rancho implosion: 2000
  • Desert Inn implosion: 2004


Following the implosions, a new breed of hotel casinos, the mega-resorts, and with them they brought a new wave of entertainment. Siegfried & Roy were crowned "Magicians of the Century" in 2000. And the award-winning off Broadway hit, Blue Man Group made its Las Vegas debut at the Luxor.


Las Vegas firmly secured its place as the wedding capital of the world, performing more than 95-hundred weddings a month.

And one symbol that seems to weather the tests of time, the welcome to Las Vegas sign. Designed by Betty Willis in the late 50's, still stands on the south end of the strip welcoming millions of tourists to our city each year. "We want to thank local historian Donn Knepp and the Las Vegas News Bureau for the photographs that you saw in that piece."

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