Neon Boneyard Park. Photo by D.J. Dammann.
Las Vegas is more than casinos. The casinos, entertainment, and seemingly unlimited dining options are big draws, but how many folks can say they’ve visited The Boneyard, a collection of historic neon signs in downtown Las Vegas?
Neon (which produces a red-orange glow, other colors are produced by other inert gases) was once the primary medium for Las Vegas signage. The 1940s through 1960s saw spectacular growth for Las Vegas. As casinos competed for business, spectacular signs became part of the landscape, particularly those designed by the Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO). Many of the storied signs, such as the still-standing Vegas Vic in downtown's Glitter Gulch, or the now-decommissioned Stardust sign on the Strip, were installed during this period.
Red Barn. Photo by D.J. Dammann.
As Las Vegas continued to grow and technology changed, signs were dismantled and left to bake in the desert heat or fall into disrepair at the hands of a new business owner. In 1996, that changed with the founding of the Neon Museum.
The Neon Museum is a non-profit organization devoted to the collection, preservation, and exhibition of neon signs for the purpose of educational and cultural enrichment. The museum showcases this very unique art form by restoring the signs to their original state and lighting the night sky with these bold displays. The museum officially opened November 15, 1996 when The Hacienda Horse and Rider was lit at the intersection of N. Las Vegas Blvd. and Fremont St.
The museum’s collection is showcased in two areas, along Fremont St. from Las Vegas Blvd. to 3rd St., and at the under-development Neon Boneyard Park at 821 N. Las Vegas Blvd., adjacent to the La Concha Motel. A third gallery has begun along the Las Vegas Boulevard State Scenic Byway, which runs from East Washington Ave. to East Sahara Ave. Each of the collections captures Las Vegas history vividly and splendidly.
Nevada Motel. Photo by D.J. Dammann.
Aladdin’s Lamp, Nevada Motel, and Dot’s Flowers are only a few of the glowing artworks on display at the Fremont St. gallery, which is open 24 hours daily as a self-guided walking tour. The scenic byway collection includes the Silver Slipper and original Binion’s Horseshoe; these signs are in the medians of the road so are best viewed from a distance. The Neon Boneyard Park is closed until summer 2010 while the La Concha is redeveloped as a visitor’s center for the Neon Museum and more of the collection’s 150 signs are refurbished for display. These signs may be viewed from the sidewalk until the park and visitor’s center opens in summer.
Visit the Neon Museum’s website to learn more about the collection and monitor information about the opening of its visitor’s center. To learn more about the history of neon signs in Las Vegas, visit YESCO’s historical timeline and click on “The Golden Age of Neon.” Visit www.byways.org to learn more about the Las Vegas Blvd. State Scenic Byway.