From Sahara Avenue to Tropicana Avenue, the streets along Las Vegas Boulevard are as familiar as the resorts after which they are named.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Mark Hall-Patton, administrator of the Clark County Museum and author of “Asphalt Memories,” a book that looks into the origins of street names in Clark County, said the names along the Strip went through a major change in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This was around the time Highway 91 became Las Vegas Boulevard, which became official in 1958.
Tropicana, for example, used to be Bond Road — named after the Bond family, whose property could be found at the end of the road. And San Francisco Street used to run through the city before becoming Sahara Avenue.
The reason for the name changes? Advertising value.
“In the late ’50s and early ’60s, we knew that (Interstate 15) was coming to Las Vegas,” Hall-Patton said. “But because it was a federally funded highway program, they weren’t going to allow signage on the freeway to advertise casinos.”
But the county found a way to work around that and had the streets leading to the Strip named after their respective resorts.
Other street names built near I-15 followed suit, leading to streets such as Desert Inn Road and Hacienda Avenue.
Hall-Patton said today any changes to the major street names, especially those along the Strip, would be nearly impossible.
A change now would affect too many locations, Hall-Patton said, whereas changes in the ’50s and ’60s affected “almost no one.”
“It often takes a lot of time and a lot of effort and a lot of money” to change a street name, he said. “It’s not just changing the road signs. It’s every business, every individual, has to change every legal document that has that name on it. … It’s not just their return address on letters.”
Dan Kulin, public information officer with Clark County, said there are several steps that need to be taken before a street sign name can be changed in unincorporated Clark County.
The application would first be submitted to the Clark County Comprehensive Planning Department for approval. The application can be initiated by someone on the board, a zoning administrator or someone who owns property along the street. The planning commission would then have to approve the application. There’s a $300 fee to apply for a street name change, and if it is approved, the applicant has to cover any costs associated with the change.
Kulin said those costs include “new signs (and) any costs that other people along the street might incur as a result of the name change.”
For those looking at changing the names of major streets, Hall-Patton wished them good luck.
The process has always been time-consuming. Changing Bond Road to Tropicana Avenue took two years, with the widow of the road’s namesake protesting, he said. And the more recent example of Highland Drive’s change to Martin Luther King Boulevard was completed in 1992, five years after the process began.
The only exception would be roads that affect only one business. Resorts World Drive, newly named after the planned resort, has few buildings along the half-mile stretch of road aside from the upcoming Resorts World Las Vegas.
While resorts like the Hacienda are gone, Hall-Patton said their legacy is bound to live on through the street names. The cost to change these names is simply too high.
For the most part, though, the streets guide tourists to Strip resorts, working as effectively as they did in the 1960s.
“At the time, in the early 1960s, the properties were very distant from each other,” Hall-Patton said. “You were doing anything you could to get people into your property from off the Strip … It did make a difference, and it makes it very easy when you’re looking to go somewhere if the street is named for the property you’re looking for.”
Contact Bailey Schulz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0256. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.