Thursday, 12 July 2018

Las Vegas - the Neon Museum

One of the things that both Chris and I wanted to do in Vegas was visit the Neon Museum. We bought a 3 day bus pass and traveled down to the old downtown area. It took 45 minutes, mostly because of the huge amount of traffic on the strip (which is 6 lanes wide!).
Freemont Street is now a covered, pedestrian street with a light show on the ceiling and zip lines (screaming people flying overhead is a little off putting)
We had not been sure where the museum was and ended up having to take a taxi to it. We had booked the tour, on line, the night before.

Our tour guide, Wendy, was a volunteer, passionate about Vegas and its history.  This is an original sign from The Golden Nugget, downtown. The 1905 refers to the start of Vegas, when a railway was being built through the valley and underground spring made it a good place to start a settlement.
Wendy explained that the building of the Hoover Dam, nearby, meant that there were jobs. The dam was started in 1930  and in 1931 lots were sold that resulted in the development of Las Vegas. In 1941 gambling was legalized in Nevada but what had more impact was that a divorce could be obtained by anyone who had resided in Nevada for 6 weeks, so divorce tourism was actually more important than gambling at that point.

The signs are laid out in a rough loop and Wendy talked about the history of the particular businesses, how neon works, and the evolution of the neon signage.
The Moulin Rouge Casino was the first integrated casino in Vegas. Before it opened blacks could perform at the hotels and casinos but not stay there.

Many of the signs were made by YESCO (Young Electric Sign Company) and they retained ownership while the businesses leased them. When the business name changed or it went under YESCO got the sign back. When the Neon Museum found a home YESCO donated many of the historic signs that had been sitting in their "boneyard". They even restored some of the signs for the museum.

This is the oldest sign on the lot. Neon signs were first made to get attention with their glow and tended to follow the lettering of the sign.

The next step in the neon evolution was animation. The sections of the sign would flash on and off giving the illusion of movement.

As the businesses used more and more neon lighting to "one up" their neighbour, the lights would blend and be unreadable so then they placed the neon tubes in channels to create clearer letters and images.
There is a section with motel signage.
This one restored.
Some artifacts are not really signs, but landmarks, like this huge metal pool player with his 80's clothing and haircut,
and this huge scull that came from Treasure Island Casino and should be displayed upright but would need considerable supports.
Letters and

pieces of signs are lying everywhere and the museum has more in storage and not enough room for them.
Wendy had stories about the different businesses and casinos and
often placed them in  historical and cultural context.
The final sign we looked at was from La Concha Motel. Restored by YESCO it has the red (neon) and green (argon) lights.
The entrance to the Neon Museum is the original lobby of La Concha Motel. A solid concrete building, it was cut in 4 and then moved to the current location.
There are pictures of the process inside.


not neon,

attract attention.

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