Las Vegas Celebrates its Centennial
On Sunday, Las Vegas celebrates its centennial, though it may be a surprise to many that a city built on glitz and gambling has much history at all. When a developer needs more room for a bigger hotel on the strip, an older hotel is typically blown up to make way.
Most American cities have a genesis story. Think of Manhattan, bought for $24 worth of baubles, or Los Angeles' humble roots as a dusty Mexican pueblo. The story of Las Vegas begins with a small concrete pillar, looking a little like a parking barrier, marking the day in 1905 when 110 acres of land was auctioned off by a railroad company. And thus, the city was born...
That marker sits between a McDonald's restaurant and a run-down casino on the "old" strip, far away from the billion-dollar fantasy resort casinos lining the "new" strip.
Las Vegas remained a tiny, two-track railroad junction town until legendary gangster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel helped create the first luxury gambling resort, the Flamingo. Las Vegas is now a metropolis of nearly two million people, and a cultural touchstone, for better or worse.
"Las Vegas is either the city that represents America, or the city that America built to represent itself," says historian Michael Green.
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