Neon Museum Visitor Center designed by Paul R. Williams. | Courtesy Neon Museum

 

IN DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS, the Neon Museum is celebrating 10 years at its current location on Las Vegas Boulevard with a special proclamation from the city. The museum collects, restores, and exhibits iconic neon signs, preserving the legacy and symbols of the city’s historic hotels, casinos, and other institutions.

The Neon Museum’s visitor center is housed in the former La Concha Motel lobby, which was designed by architect Paul R. Williams. Defined by its mid-century modern, space-age design, the shell-shaped building was originally constructed in 1961. Councilman Cedric Crear stopped by the museum on Oct. 26 to present the proclamation to Neon Museum Executive Director Aaron Berger.

Recognizing the contributions the nonprofit museum accredited by the American Alliance of Museums has made to the city, preserving neon signs as an iconic art form associated with Las Vegas and welcoming more than 1 million visitors, the proclamation declares Oct. 27 as “Neon Museum Day.”

“As a Las Vegas native, I applaud the Museum’s commitment to telling the stories of our city’s history – including those stories that might be lesser known, like the civil rights effort in Las Vegas or the unique cultural contributions of community members,” Crear said in a statement. “These are important historical stories for us to celebrate and for people to hear, now and for generations to come. I congratulate the Museum on its 10-year anniversary and look forward to supporting its future endeavors.”

 


Oct. 26, 2022: From left, Las Vegas City Councilman Cedric Crear and Neon Museum Executive Director Aaron Berger at Neon Museum. | Photo courtesy Neon Museum

 

Founded in 1996, the Neon Museum now sits on two-plus acres where more than 250 signs are installed in an outdoor exhibition space called the Neon Boneyard. On view in the North Gallery, Brilliant is an immersive light and sound experience that brings 40 vintage signs to life. Eight restored neon signs are also on display throughout Las Vegas in collaboration with the city’s public art program.

In addition to neon signs, the museum’s collection includes a growing archive of research materials—original sign blueprints and renderings, photographs, oral histories, and ephemera such postcards, matchbooks, ashtrays, and poker chips.

“You’ve got the Moulin Rouge Hotel which is the first integrated casino in Las Vegas. They have preserved all those signs… I was born and raised in this community and so when I walk through, I see the signs and I see the history of these signs. I just don’t look at it as being neon.”
— Councilman Cedric Crear

“They have taken old signs, neon signs within Las Vegas and they preserved them right here on this property,” Crear said at the museum. “You’ve got the Sahara Hotel. You’ve got the Hard Rock Hotel, the big guitar from the Hard Rock. You’ve got the Flame, La Concha, the Sahara, the Sands. You’ve got the Moulin Rouge Hotel which is the first integrated casino in Las Vegas. (It opened and closed permanently in 1955.) They have preserved all those signs and it’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years. We are celebrating 10 years tonight.”

Crear added: “I was born and raised in this community and so when I walk through, I see the signs and I see the history of these signs. I just don’t look at it as being neon. I used to grow up playing tennis at the Hacienda. My father used to take me to the coffee shop at the Sahara, which is a big deal. We used to go to the Hard Rock. I remember when it opened up that was like the Friday night hang out spot when we were in college. You have so many memories and they bring that out in you when you walk around this facility and see these signs.” CT

 

FIND MORE Duck, Duck, Shed, a four-day event (Oct. 27-30, 2022) hosted by the Neon Museum, celebrates Las Vegas architecture, design and culture. Offerings include Two Perspectives on Paul Revere Williams on Oct. 28, a lecture program about the pioneering African American architect at Circa Resort and Casino

 


The Neon Museum’s Neon Boneyard is home to more than 250 signs, including the sign for the Moulin Rouge, which in 1955 became the first integrated casino in Las Vegas. | Courtesy Neon Museum

 

BOOKSHELF
A few books explore the life and work of Paul R. Williams. “Paul R. Williams Architect” and “Paul R. Williams: Classic Hollywood Style” showcase the legendary designs of Williams in lavishly illustrated volumes authored by Karen E. Hudson, the architect’s granddaughter. Also by Hudson, “The Will and the Way: Paul R. Williams, Architect” tells Williams’s story. Published more recently, “Regarding Paul R. Williams: A Photographer’s View” features photographs of the architect’s buildings by Janna Ireland.

 

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