Diamonds In The Desert cover

Diamonds In The Desert

By


Raise your hand if you’ve heard of or remember the futuristic design of the 1950s dubbed the Googie architecture movement? Stay with me, you may be surprised.
Entering Las Vegas, Nevada, from California on Arrowhead Highway/Highway 91, now called “the Strip,” you can still find remnants of roadside America from its motoring past. One of the not so ubiquitous treasures is the Diamond Inn Motel built in 1940.


Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars on 3 reviews

"Iconic Cool." 4 stars by




NoteStream NoteStream

NoteStreams are readable online but they’re even better in the free App!

The NoteStream™ app is for learning about things that interest you: from music to history, to classic literature or cocktails. NoteStreams are truly easy to read on your smartphone—so you can learn more about the world around you and start a fresh conversation.

For a list of all authors on NoteStream, click here.




Read the NoteStream below, or download the app and read it on the go!

Save to App


Diamonds In The Desert

Googie Architecture

Raise your hand if you’ve heard of or remember the futuristic design of the 1950s dubbed the Googie architecture movement? Stay with me, you may be surprised.

Entering Las Vegas, Nevada, from California on Arrowhead Highway/Highway 91, now called “the Strip,” you can still find remnants of roadside America from its motoring past. One of the not so ubiquitous treasures is the Diamond Inn Motel built in 1940.

During a recent visit to Las Vegas, while staying at Mandalay Bay, I was delighted to discover two historic landmarks, “The Sign” and the Diamond Inn Motel. Well, to be honest, only the sign is designated as a historic landmark. But they are both worth a look just to get a glimpse of Las Vegas’s history.

Time Warp

Time Warp

Get Outside

Provided you have the pluck to make your way from your room through the maze of the modern monolith hotel/casino, and can actually get outside for an early morning walk, you can discover this quaint roadside business.

Admittedly I’m an early bird. I was out the door by 5:15 a.m. enjoying a light breeze and a pleasant 78 degrees. Keep in mind, in late May temperatures can quickly exceed 100. My morning walk quickly reminded me of the dramatic contrast of scale between the old and the new.

Typical Brochures

Now practically in the shadow of the immense Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, I could not pass up the opportunity to walk into the Diamond Inn’s main check-in/reception area and ask the young man behind the counter, “How much is a room?”

He pointed to a handwritten piece of paper on the counter with the prices for night and weekly rates.

“Do you have any brochures?” I asked.

“Not about the hotel,” he said. “Just the ones there on the window sill.”

Yes, you guessed it, the location of strip clubs and the typical tourist brochures you find littering the sidewalks of Las Vegas.

Different After Dark

Different After Dark

Las Vegas Lass

(CC BY 2.0)

Early Days

When it was built in 1940, the Desert Isle Motel, its original name, hovered at the outskirts of the city.

With a little research you will discover it is one of the oldest buildings still standing on the strip. The first hotel/casino built on the strip was called the El Rancho Vegas Hotel & Casino built in 1941.

Later in the '40's and ’50’s, dozens of motels were built next door, the Mirage, Lone Palm, Desert Rose and many others that were the high points of Old Vegas with their glittering neon signs.

Historic Treasure

The Diamond Inn is still standing and in business, yes, it is a little worn from the years of blistering heat.

The front window was broken and held in place with duct tape, the pool had been drained, and it could use a paint job, I could only imagine what the rooms were like.

However, there were cars parked in designated room spaces. That’s a good sign-right? My hunch is today tourists would call it a diamond in the rough, a historic treasure.

Bygone Days

Bygone Days

Image By Nevada News Bureau

(CC BY-SA 3.0)

Paradise

Proceeding south as the rays of golden sunrise peeked over the horizon, the second gem I approached was the famous Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, built in 1959, and now powered by a solar array.

Coincidently, I had never seen this sign before. The sign, as it’s known to the locals, is located in the median at 5100 Las Vegas Boulevard South, just north of the historic stone pillars of the old McCarran Airport on the east side, and across from the Bali Hai Golf Club.

According to my GPS, the sign sits in the town of Paradise and is located roughly four miles south of the actual city limits of Las Vegas.

Welcome To Vegas

Welcome To Vegas

Fun Facts

As I approached from the north side, in large bold and scripted font it read, Drive Carefully Come Back Soon.

Huh, what is this? I thought. So, I crossed the street to the median and walked around to read the placard next to the large solar panels.

A few fun facts were:

• Designed in 1959 by Architect Betsy Willis

• It is a horizontally stretched diamond shape

• The design was never copyrighted and remains in public domain

• The white neon circles were designed to represent silver dollars

• December 2008 a 10-acre parking lot was built for tourists

• Added to State Register of Historic Places in December 2013

Blast From The Past

Surprisingly it looked familiar.

So a quick tap on the Googie link from a Google search on my phone confirmed I had seen this style before. For those familiar with Los Angeles some examples are; Norms Restaurants, Johnie’s Coffee Shop on Wilshire Boulevard, the oldest McDonalds in Downey, California, opened in 1953, the classic drive-in theater signs, and the Theme Building at the Los Angles airport.

Today you can see many diamonds in the desert in Las Vegas but not one that represents such a blast from roadside America’s motoring past.