Breaking

Striking pictures capture the glory days and the street scenes of Las Vegas, 1960s-1970s


The image of Las Vegas that emerged in the 1970s would take decades to shed: a lucrative tourist trap with aging casinos, cheap restaurants and showrooms full of artists whose career was on its last legs.

With few exceptions, investment had slowed and Vegas no longer looked as exciting, especially as it was forced to compete with the spectacular newness of Atlantic City, where gambling was legalized in 1976.
There were some bright spots.

In 1971, the 500-room Union Plaza opened at the head of Fremont Street on the site of the old Union Pacific Station. At the time, it was the largest casino in the world, and its showroom specialized in Broadway productions.

The year 1973 was eventful: in the Tropicana, extraordinary illusionists Siegfried and Roy began to turn women into tigers and themselves into legends in the Folies Bergere.

Meanwhile, right up the street, the original MGM Grand (now Bally's) overtook the Plaza as the world's largest hotel and casino, with Dean Martin as host of the opening evening.


Las Vegas made its way into America's living room with two separate television shows. Taking advantage of a ready supply of local headliner guests, Merv Griffin began taping his daytime talkfest at Caesars Palace in 1971.

Then, in 1978, Vega$ debuted, instantly flashing the image of star Robert Urich, cruising down the Strip in his red Thunderbird convertible, in the minds of TV audiences everywhere.

As the decade drew to a close, an International Arrivals Building opened and converted McCarran Field into McCarran International Airport, and dollar slot machines created a sensation in casinos.


On a percentage basis, Las Vegas and Clark County experienced incredibly high growth rates beginning in the 1930s through the late 2000s.

During that period, the city's population more than doubled for most of the decade. The rate slowed with a decrease in the white birth rate in the 1970s, but never dropped below 60% (1980–1990), and even accelerated after 1990 due to immigration.

As of 2000, Las Vegas was the largest city established in the 20th century, and by 2006 it was the largest city in the U.S. It was the 28th largest city in the U.S., with a population of 552,000 in downtown and approximately 1.8 million in Clark County.


The explosive growth resulted in the rapid development of commercial and residential areas in the Las Vegas Valley. The boom in the resort business led to a number of new condominium developments in the Strip and downtown area.

In addition, urban sprawl of single-family homes continued to develop throughout the Valley, forming the areas of Henderson, North Las Vegas, Centennial Hills, and Summerlin. Both rapid growth and population growth came to a sudden halt in the recession of the late 2000s.

During this period, American author and journalist Hunter S. Thompson wrote and published his seminal novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, detailing the experience of his 1971 trip to the city.

On 21 November 1980, a massive fire broke out at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino. A total of 85 people were killed and 785 were injured in the worst disaster ever in Nevada history. The property was eventually sold and reopened as Bally's Las Vegas, and MGM moved south to Tropicana Avenue.



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