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Does the El Cortez deserve historic designation?

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Should the El Cortez be added to the honorary list?

In discussing the push to have the El Cortez added to the National Register of Historic Places on KNPR, executive vice president Alexandra Epstein said that, until recently, she hadn’t known the registry existed.

Though surprising, that makes sense, given our city’s young age and that most structures deemed historic are 50-60 years old—an age not assumed to be notable, much to the exasperation of local preservationists.

But now the effort is on for the El Cortez, something historians support. Built by Marion Hicks in 1941, once owned by Bugsy Siegel and remodeled in 1946 by architect Wayne McAllister before winding up in the hands of Jackie Gaughan in 1963, it’s thought to have social and architectural relevance.It's brick facade is largely unchanged.

Though tax provisions are sometimes available for historically designated locales, the list is largely honorary, a way to influence preservation and conservation of historic buildings, districts, objects and sites. Clark County has 58 listings. But it doesn't always work out that way.

Two buildings listed -- the Green Shack restaurant and Moulin Rouge --are now gone. The Green Shack located on Fremont Street was razed and the Moulin Rouge, plagued with problems for several years and destroyed by fire while it sat closed, was eventually demolished.

Noted sites and buildings on the list include the Hoover Dam, the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, Boulder Dam Hotel, Goodsprings Schoolhouse, Huntridge Theatre, John S. Park neighborhood, Fifth Street School (then Las Vegas Grammar School) and Las Vegas Springs.

Should the El Cortez be approved, it will be the first casino on the list. Whether it deserves the designation will be debated, but at least it's in the care of owners who want to see it preserved. Their dedication to its place in history and in the community seems unwavering.

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Kristen Peterson

Kristen Peterson joined the Las Vegas Sun in 1998 as a general assignment reporter. In 2003, she turned her focus ...

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