El Rancho Vegas
|El Rancho Vegas|
|Location||Las Vegas, NV 89109|
|Address||2500 Las Vegas Blvd.|
|Opening date||April 3, 1941|
|Closing date||June 17, 1960|
|Number of rooms||220|
|Signature attractions||The Opera House|
|Notable restaurants||The Opera House, Chuck Wagon Buffet, Nugget Nell Lounge, Stage Door Steakhouse|
El Rancho Vegas was a hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip. It was located at 2500 Las Vegas Boulevard, at the southwest corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue, and opened on April 3, 1941. Until 1942, it was the largest hotel in Las Vegas with 110 rooms. On June 17, 1960, the hotel was destroyed by fire. In 1982, the former Thunderbird Hotel was rebranded El Rancho Casino, creating some confusion.
In 1940, James Cashman, a businessman, asked Thomas Hull, the owner of the El Rancho hotels, to build a chain in Las Vegas. Hull saw the potential of the resort, as he saw all the out-of-state license plates during a visit to the resorts potential site. Construction of the El Rancho Vegas began in 1940, and the resort opened on April 3, 1941. El Rancho Vegas was the first resort on the Las Vegas Strip. It was designed by architect Wayne McAllister, who constructed the resort with a Spanish-style exterior with a cowboy, frontier-type of interior for $500,000. El Rancho Vegas offered horseback riding, a large swimming pool, and top shows in its theater called the Opera House. When it opened, El Rancho Vegas's dining room was the largest in Las Vegas. The casino consisted of four table games—two blackjack tables, one roulette table, and one craps table—and seventy slot machines.
In December 1944, William Wilkerson leased the El Rancho Vegas from then owner Joe Drown for six months. Wilkerson paid Drown $50,000 for the six-month lease. Wilkerson would later go on to build The Flamingo Hotel. In September 1945, El Rancho Vegas was sold for $1.5 million to Los Angeles businessman Walter Guzzardi. The resort went through several changes of ownership before Beldon Katleman, who received a share of ownership upon the death of his uncle, Jake Katleman, in 1947, bought out the remaining shareholders and became the proprietor of record. Katleman used $750,000 to improve the resort, and El Rancho Vegas became the largest casino in Nevada.
Shirley Bassey made her American stage debut here in 1957. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were married at the El Rancho Vegas in 1958. The wedding was held in the suite of (and completely paid for by) the casino's owner at the time, Beldon Katleman. Stripper Candy Barr was headlining at El Rancho Vegas in 1959 when she was arrested by the FBI after her appeal on a marijuana conviction originating in Texas was rejected by the US Supreme Court.
Big entertainers who performed regularly at the El Rancho included Sophie Tucker (a mainstay), Jimmy Durante, Julius LaRosa, comedians Joe E. Lewis and Buddy Hackett, opera star Roberta Sherwood, actresses Jane Russell, Eartha Kitt, Rita Moreno, Gloria DeHaven and even Zsa Zsa Gabor.
Fire and closure
On June 17, 1960, while Harry James and Betty Grable were performing a late show on stage, the hotel was destroyed by a fire. There were no deaths or injuries. Despite vows to rebuild the El Rancho Vegas after the fire, the plans never materialized. In 1970, billionaire Howard Hughes purchased 60 acres (24 ha) of the land. In 1978, the remnants of the old resort were demolished.
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- Moehring, Eugene (2000). Resort City of the Sunbelt. University of Nevada Press.
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