East valley neighborhood designated by Las Vegas City Council as historic

The neighborhood is within easy walking distance of a strip club, several massage parlors, and residents can clearly hear the screams of tourists on the rides of the Stratosphere, but despite that, they wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

In fact, the application to designate the Beverly Green Historic District on the city of Las Vegas Historic Property Register was unanimously approved by the Las Vegas City Council on Sept. 21.

“My husband and I fell in love with this neighborhood six years ago,” said Poly Schmitt. “We thought it would be amazing to live in the heart of the city. It just felt magical. We have the Stratosphere practically in our backyard. We get to watch the fireworks.”

The designation includes the areas from the west side of Rexford Drive to the west side of Sixth Street and from the north side of St. Louis Avenue to the south side of Oakey Boulevard. Most of the 117 single-family homes in the neighborhood were built in the 1950s and ‘60s and include a range of mid-century modern designs, including ranch, modern, international and storybook. The designation also includes seven multi-family units, which is unusual for a historic designation.

“The neighbors are awesome,” Schmitt said. “There are a lot of older residents that have been here about 40 years, and there are some who just moved here a few years ago. There’s a couple of Broadway dancers who moved here. One of them teaches at Las Vegas Academy. There’s a performer from Ka. There are a couple of older residents who walk the streets every night, keeping an eye on things.”

Heidi Swank, executive director at the Nevada Preservation Foundation, owns two homes in the neighborhood with her husband Scott. They live in a storybook ranch home just down the street from the home where Louis Prima and Keely Smith raised their children.

“My house was owned by Irwin Molasky’s parents (Rose and Louis Molasky),” Swank said. “Mr. Molasky had it built for them. It was designed by Hugh Taylor, who designed the Desert Inn casino and the Desert Inn Estates, which included the Morelli House.”

The homes were built by some of the bigger names in mid-century modern architecture and local construction, and most of them are custom-built between 1,200 to 2,000 square feet.

“It still looks like it did in the ‘50s and ‘60s,” said Jack LeVine, a real estate agent specializing in mid-century modern homes and the owner of veryvintagevegas.com, a website dedicated to mid-century style in the valley. “There’s a nice mix of architectural styles. It doesn’t look cookie cutter at all.”

Mid-century modern architecture is typically built low with open floorplans and incorporates natural materials, including stone with simple sweeping lines contrasted with patterned concrete textures. Large windows and sliding doors to the backyard blur the line between interior and exterior, and that line may be further blurred with planters and elements that go between the two areas.

“The exteriors in particular are really well-maintained,” LeVine said. “Not a lot of horrible things have been done to the houses. The historical designation is well-deserved.”

Swank and her husband moved to the area from Chicago 11 years ago. They had a house full of mid-century modern furniture and realized that in Las Vegas, they could own a home to match.

“Beverly Green is a lot of the reason I started Nevada Preservation,” Swank said. “We got a grant from the Las Vegas Centennial Commission to run the campaign, which paid for staff time and mailers and such.”

One of the results of the listing on the city’s Historic Property Register is that all work requiring a building or zoning permit is now subject to review by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. Work will be reviewed for compatibility with the historic architecture of the individual building or district. Most minor work can be reviewed administratively, and there are no additional fees associated with permit applications and review.

As part of the grant, a walking tour is in the works, which is set to be unveiled at an event in April that is tentatively called Home and History. The event is an extension of several events and tours over the years highlighting mid-century modern architecture and style.

“One of the things I liked about this neighborhood is that I could picture Elvis Presley playing guitar outside of the pagoda home, or I could picture Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack having cocktails by the pool in one of the homes,” Schmitt said. “It just seems like quintessential Las Vegas in its heyday.”

Schmitt and her husband bought their home during the economic downturn, but even then there were several other people trying to get it. These days, she says that at least once a week someone comes knocking at her door to see if they can buy the house. Sometimes it’s a private buyer; sometimes it’s a real estate agent or an investor, but the answer is always the same: No.

“This our home, and this is our neighborhood,” Schmitt said. “We have no intention of leaving. We love it here. People don’t even know this neighborhood is here, and once they discover it, they fall in love with it.”

To reach East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor, email ataylor@viewnews.com or call 702-380-4532.

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