weather icon Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Alumni of old Las Vegas High ask, ‘Who will help preserve history?’

Alumni of the old Las Vegas High School worry that its historic buildings will be torn down or fall down from benign neglect.

Historical preservationist Bob Stoldal is extremely upset because there has been no public input.

“We’re going to tear down Las Vegas High School without public input?” he said Monday.

The former television newsman is a 1958 graduate of what is now called the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, a Clark County School District magnet high school for performing, visual and liberal arts.

The downtown school, bordered by Seventh and Ninth streets and Bridger and Clark avenues, opened in 1930 and represents “the beginning of organized professional education” in Las Vegas, Stoldal said. The thought of it being demolished enrages him.

“A few of us are going to chain ourselves to the door,” he vowed.

Former Nevada Gov. and U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, one of the school’s many notable graduates, said alumni will try to find out how much it would cost to restore at least the main building.

“Nobody wants to tear it down,” Bryan said. “But what happens if there’s no money to rehabilitate it?”

In a written statement, the Clark County School District said a technology upgrade was planned for the high school using money from the 2015 school bond extension, but it would have required highly intrusive trenching throughout the campus and the installation of conduit and electrical components throughout the old buildings.

Instead, the school district decided to proceed with a broader master plan for a phased replacement of the buildings.

“Phased replacement” sounds suspiciously like “tear down.”

The main building and the old gym are not exactly in pristine condition. Classes are hot in the summer and cold in the winter, and when it rains, there are leaks. The school district is notorious for failing to maintain crumbling schools.

The district said it intends to preserve the campus’s historic elements while modernizing and expanding the facilities.

The school district is reaching out to see whether the architectural community is interested in a master-plan design competition for the entire campus.

I was told by the school district that no additional information was available. No cost estimates. No plans. No idea what might be preserved or demolished.


About six weeks ago, a school district official met with the Las Vegas High School Alumni Association to explain there would be a long-term program for the campus. But Stoldal, a local leader in historic preservation, is furious that there was no public notification or news release about what might happen to the historic high school buildings, noted for their art deco designs.

Money is always the challenge for historic preservation of buildings that prompt fond memories. The “Save the Huntridge” campaign has been a failure. Yet the Mob Museum, the Fifth Street School and the Westside School have been successes — with the help of tax dollars.

Bryan and Stoldal don’t object to an alternative use, citing the old federal courthouse downtown, built in 1933, which was restored for $42 million and repurposed to house the Mob Museum. The Historic Fifth Street School, built in 1936, underwent a $9.6 million rehabilitation, reopening in 2008 to house cultural offices.

The latest renovation, the Historic Westside School, built in 1923, opened in August after a $12.5 million restoration. The first Las Vegas school to allow black students in the 1940s, it now houses KCEP radio and a technology nonprofit.

Now that the word is out that the Las Vegas Academy buildings are endangered, we’ll see how much it costs and who steps up to the plate.

Hopefully, fond memories of Las Vegas High School will prompt alumni to open their wallets or find other revenue sources, and architecture firms will find merit in competing to create a master plan that preserves — but doesn’t demolish — the historic buildings.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column runs Thursdays. Leave messages for her at 702-383-0275 or email jmorrison@reviewjournal.com. Find her on Twitter: @janeannmorrison

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Cab riders experiencing no-shows urged to file complaints

If a cabbie doesn’t show, you must file a complaint. Otherwise, the authority will keep on insisting it’s just not a problem, according to columnist Jane Ann Morrison. And that’s not what she’s hearing.

Are no-shows by Las Vegas taxis usual or abnormal?

In May former Las Vegas planning commissioner Byron Goynes waited an hour for a Western Cab taxi that never came. Is this routine or an anomaly?

Columnist shares dad’s story of long-term cancer survival

Columnist Jane Ann Morrison shares her 88-year-old father’s story as a longtime cancer survivor to remind people that a cancer diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean a hopeless end.

Las Vegas author pens a thriller, ‘Red Agenda’

If you’re looking for a good summer read, Jane Ann Morrison has a real page turner to recommend — “Red Agenda,” written by Cameron Poe, the pseudonym for Las Vegan Barry Cameron Lindemann.

Las Vegas woman fights to stop female genital mutilation

Selifa Boukari McGreevy wants to bring attention to the horrors of female genital mutilation by sharing her own experience. But it’s not easy to hear. And it won’t be easy to read.

Biases of federal court’s Judge Jones waste public funds

Nevada’s most overturned federal judge — Robert Clive Jones — was overturned yet again in one case and removed from another because of his bias against the U.S. government.

Don’t forget Jay Sarno’s contributions to Las Vegas

Steve Wynn isn’t the only casino developer who deserves credit for changing the face of Las Vegas. Jay Sarno, who opened Caesars Palace in 1966 and Circus Circus in 1968, more than earned his share of credit too.

John Momot’s death prompts memories of 1979 car fire

Las Vegas attorney John Momot Jr. was as fine a man as people said after he died April 12 at age 74. I liked and admired his legal abilities as a criminal defense attorney. But there was a mysterious moment in Momot’s past.