76°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Bonnie Springs Ranch attracts hundreds after news of looming sale

Updated January 16, 2019 - 4:02 pm

For a married couple from Michigan, Bonnie Springs Ranch isn’t just historically significant. It’s a place with special meaning in their relationship.

“We had our first date here,” Elizabeth Baldwin, 65, said, smiling up at her husband.

The Baldwins were among hundreds of people who swarmed Bonnie Springs on Saturday afternoon.

A woman selling tickets at the Old Town entrance said Bonnie Springs was busier than she had seen the ranch in weeks — surpassing even Christmas weekend, normally its busiest time of year.

The restaurant was overflowing with people waiting to be seated about noon Saturday, and about 30 people stood in line to buy tickets to get into Old Town and the petting zoo just before 1 p.m.

A special place

Elizabeth and Robert Baldwin were in Las Vegas visiting family when they learned that the ranch is being sold to a home developer. They drove their motorcycle out to the ranch to stroll through the grounds one last time.

“Who knows what it’s going to look like when we come back next year,” Elizabeth Baldwin said.

Raised in Michigan, Elizabeth Baldwin said she met her husband when she was designing and sewing costumes for shows on the Strip. They had their first date in 2009, married in 2011 and retired to Michigan in 2013.

Robert Baldwin, 58, was born and raised in Las Vegas and has visited Bonnie Springs since he was 9. During the 45 years he worked in air conditioning in the city, he would drive his motorcycle to the ranch after work.

He said he’s noticed residential development creeping closer to Red Rock.

“It’s Vegas, and I’ve watched it change all my life, but pretty soon it ain’t gonna be Vegas,” he said. “Now you’ve got to go 100 miles out of town to do anything. This used to be one of the best getaways there was.”

Petition drive

He said the ranch should be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Although according to executive director of the Nevada Preservation Foundation, Heidi Swank, listing a place on the National Register does not protect the place from destruction or sale – it only promotes the location as one of historic value – Baldwin is not alone in his desire to have the ranch federally recognized.

An online petition to turn Bonnie Springs into a historical landmark had been signed by more than 32,000 people as of Wednesday afternoon.

“They are now closing down Bonnie Springs and starting demolition in March to make room for another high end luxury community,” Peter Hall, the creator of the online petition, wrote in its description. “The city tried to demolish the Huntridge theater years ago, and our community was able to preserve this historical building by signing a petition to make it a historical landmark. Let’s do the same for Bonnie Springs.”

The Bellamys, who have lived in Las Vegas for 15 years, are heartbroken that the ranch is closing, they said Saturday.

“This is where our kids saw their first snow,” Angela Bellamy said, describing that day in December 2017 as “magical.”

On Saturday, her kids, Oliver, 3, and Soraya, 4, played with the animatronic figures on the wood-planked platform outside Old Town. Oliver shouted “Snake!” at a fake reptile in a glass case, while Soraya turned the crank on a penny press machine.

Adam Bellamy said he’ll miss the ranch’s “homespun charm.”

“Places like this don’t exist anymore,” he said.

His family planned to watch all the Old West shows and ride the train before grabbing dinner and beers at the restaurant at Bonnie Springs. (“We’re going on the choo-choo train!” Oliver interjected.)

“It feels very Nevada,” Angela Bellamy said.

“I feel like people that come visit here sometimes get a misrepresentation of what our state is from the Strip. And I feel like this is our state,” she said, gesturing toward the wooden walls of the Old Town. “Kind of podunk, homespun, cobbled together, but just so interesting and beautiful and special.”

Creating a memory

Dawn Bailey, who has lived in Las Vegas for 34 years, used to visit Bonnie Springs with her grandchildren, now ages 18 and 19, nearly every weekend when they were young. Her granddaughter used to come so often that she memorized the names on the fake headstones in the western village replica.

Bailey and her 10-year-old grandson, Cash Landry, visited the ranch Saturday to revive the forgotten tradition before it closes.

“We realized that he was here when he was a baby and doesn’t remember it,” Bailey said. “We want him to have that memory, too.”

Cash and his grandmother sat on hay bales as they watched a western melodrama unfold. A man pretending to be an old-time miner, wearing red long johns and a battered black cowboy hat, shouted about aluminum in the background.

“I love it,” Cash said of the ranch. “My favorite part is probably the zoo, I really like animals.”

Now that he has experienced it, Cash said he’s sad that Bonnie Springs is closing. His grandmother agreed.

“You kind of take it for granted so you don’t come,” Bailey said. “And then when I read that newspaper article I said, ‘We have to bring him because now he’s old enough to remember it.’”

Contact Kimber Laux at klaux@reviewjournal.com. Follow @lauxkimber on Twitter.

A previous version of this story included the suggestion of placement on the National Register of Historic Places as a way to prevent the closure of Bonnie Springs Ranch and the construction of homes there. While the placement of a location on the register promotes a site as worthy of preservation, it does not protect it from sale, redevelopment or destruction.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
How much do Las Vegas casino CEOs make?
Las Vegas gaming CEOs made anywhere between $1 million and $24 million last year, according to company filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. ((Las Vegas Review-Journal)
30-year-old Rio needs a little TLC
Nearly 30 years after the Rio opened, the red and blue jewel that helped catapult Las Vegas to a new level with its buffet and nightclub has lost its status along with its shine.
The latest on the Drew Las Vegas - VIDEO
Eli Segall recounts his tour of the Drew Las Vegas, formerly the Fontainebleau, on the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pinball Hall of Fame to move near south Strip
Operators of the Pinball Hall of Fame have been approved to build a new, larger arcade near the south edge of the Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard near Russel Road. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
National Hardware Show underway Las Vegas
The National Hardware Show kicked off Tuesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Caesars for sale?
Caesars Entertainment Corp. has been swept up in takeover speculation since the company’s share price tumbled last year amid disappointing earnings and concerns over a recession. Amid the decline, hedge funds scooped up shares. Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn began buying shares of Caesars as early as January. Icahn acquired nearly 18 percent by mid-March. In February Icahn called on the Caesars board to study a sale as a way to boost shareholder value.
Las Vegas home prices
Las Vegas home prices grew fastest among major markets in February for the ninth straight month. But amid affordability concerns, the growth rate has slowed down. Southern Nevada prices in February were up 9.7% from a year earlier, according to the latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index. The last time Las Vegas' price growth fell below 10% was in September 2017, S&P Dow Jones Indices reported.
Free Parking Coming To Wynn
Free parking will come to the Wynn and Encore resorts on May 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Founding Venetian employees talk about 20 years at the Strip resort
The Venetian, which opened May 3, 1999, is celebrating 20 years on the Las Vegas Strip. Seven original employees talk about opening the luxury resort and working there for two decades. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Circa aiming for December 2020 opening
The 1.25-million-square-foot property will have 44-stories and 777-rooms. It will also have a separate nine-story, 1,201-space parking garage.
Boxabl official explains the building concept
Boxabl business development manager Galiano Tiramani shows off a room built by his company. (Blake Apgar/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TI/Mirage Tram reopens
The tram that shuttles guests between TI and Mirage reopened this week after being closed for much of 2018.
Las Vegas Convention Center expansion taking shape
Renderings and actual footage show how the Las Vegas Convention Center is evolving.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at Las Vegas convention
Former Starbucks CEO and potential presidential candidate Howard Schultz spoke at the Epicor Insights user conference at Mandalay Bay Convention Center Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Drew Las Vegas to open in the second quarter of 2022
The 67-story Drew Las Vegas is slated to open in the second quarter of 2022 at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NAB Day 1 (Time Lapse)
NAB kicked off at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, April 8, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
National Association of Broadcasters Show shows 1mm thick 8K TV with 22.2 channel digital sound
Japan’s NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories booth featured a 1mm thick 8K TV system used in conjunction with a 22.2 channel digital sound system at the National Association of Broadcasters Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Nevada shoppers react to Smith’s no longer accepting Visa credit cards
On March 1, Smith’s announced that it would no longer be accepting Visa credit cards at any of its 142 supermarkets, including the 45 in Nevada.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission asks how long Wynn executives knew about misconduct
Business reporter Rick Velotta gives an update on the adjudicatory hearing on the suitability of Wynn Resorts to retain its gaming license in Massachusetts.
Henderson app developer part of Startup in Residence
Henderson based developers of the app On Point Barricade are taking part in Startup in Residence, a North America program dedicated to pairing tech companies with governments. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sam's Town employees and customers talk of their love for the iconic casino
Longtime Sam's Town employees and customers love each other and love their casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas apartments rents
Las Vegas’ apartment market has accelerated in recent years. Developers are packing the suburbs with projects, landlords are on a buying spree, and tenants have filled buildings.
William Boyd talks about the birth of Sam's Town
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of Sam's Town, William Boyd, executive chairman of Boyd Gaming and son of hotel namesake Sam Boyd, talks about how the casino became one of the first local properties in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
High Roller observation wheel turns five
The world’s tallest observation wheel celebrates it’s fifth year on Sunday, March 31, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Escape Room Industry Growing In Las Vegas
Escapology employees discuss the growing escape room industry in the U.S. and Las Vegas. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Impact of parking fees on visiting the Las Vegas Strip
There are no data showing a relationship between Strip resort and parking fees and the number of out-of-state visitors to Las Vegas. But there are data showing a relationship between Strip parking fees and the number of local visitors to the the Strip. ‘’As a local, I find myself picking hotels I visit for dinner or entertainment, based on whether they charge for parking or not,”’ said David Perisset, the owner of Exotics Racing. ‘’It is not a matter of money, more of principle.’’ A 2018 survey by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance found 36.9 percent of Clark County residents reported avoiding parking at Strip casinos that charge for parking. 29.1 percent reported avoiding using any services from a Strip casino that charges for parking.
MGM's sports betting deals
MGM Resorts International signed a sports betting sponsorship agreement with the NBA in July It was the first professional sports league to have official ties with a legal sports betting house. The deal came just two months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law prohibiting sports betting in most states. In October, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the NHL. In November, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the MLB. Financial terms of Tuesday’s deal and earlier partnerships have not been announced.
Faraday puts Las Vegas land on the market
Nearly two years after Faraday Future bailed on its North Las Vegas auto factory, the company has put its land up for sale. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
El Cortez owner Kenny Epstein on running the iconic property
Kenny Epstein, owner of the El Cortez Hotel in downtown Las Vegas, talks about Jackie Gaughan mentorship and answers rumors about bodies in the basement at the mob-era casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
LVCVA recommends construction of underground people mover
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced the recommendation for an underground people mover for the convention center. The system would have the potential to expand and connect Downtown and the resort corridor all the way to McCarran. (Michael Quine/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Week in Pictures: May 12-May 18

Take a look at some eye-catching pictures from Las Vegas Review-Journal photographers in the past week, including high school championship games, UNLV’s graduation ceremony at the Thomas & Mack Center and the Electric Daisy Carnival at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Desert Oasis won its first Class 4A state baseball title on Friday at Las Vegas […]