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Las Vegas’ El Cortez hotel-casino listed as national historic site

Gambling and boozing in downtown Las Vegas is history.

The National Register of Historic Places recently listed the El Cortez, a Fremont Street property with a facade largely unchanged since opening day in 1941.

“We are pleased that such a beloved and well-tended icon has been given this national recognition,” said Rebecca Palmer, acting Nevada state historic preservation officer, in announcing the listing.

There are 50 Clark County places on the registry, according to the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office. The list includes the Boulder Dam Hotel in Boulder City and the Fifth Street School and the site of the former Moulin Rouge in Las Vegas.

Other long-lasting local casino properties include the Golden Gate, which is in a building that opened as Las Vegas’ first hotel in 1906, and Railroad Pass in Henderson, which opened in 1931. Neither is listed on the national register.

The Riverside and El Cortez hotels in Reno are on the national register, but neither has an active casino. Virgina City, which has gambling, is on the register, but it is listed as a historic district, not for any specific casino.

Operators of the hotel made an application for the register last fall. It needed approvals at the state, local and national levels and was added to the register Feb. 13.

The application was based mostly on the fact the El Cortez facade on Fremont and Sixth streets has barely changed since 1941.

The El Cortez architecture is considered significant because it is an example of a Spanish Colonial Revival style with a Western flair, which was popular in the Western United States around the time of World War II.

The El Cortez’s distinctive rooftop neon sign was added in 1952, parking garages arrived in 1970 and 1976, and a 15-story hotel tower was finished in 1984, according to the application.

Alexandra Epstein, executive vice president of the El Cortez, said the hotel plans to recognize the designation so visitors can learn about the history of the property.

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