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Vintage signs will soon light up Las Vegas Boulevard

A swath of Las Vegas Boulevard downtown is being updated with Las Vegas’ claim to the scenic and historical: restored neon signs.

Workers recently installed the vintage sign from the Bow and Arrow Motel at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Bonanza Road.

Two more signs — the slipper from the old Silver Slipper Gambling Hall and the horseshoe that used to top Binion’s Horseshoe casino — will be placed on that stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard soon. The Binion’s sign is expected to be installed today or Tuesday.

It’s all part of what’s known as the Las Vegas Boulevard Scenic Byways Plan, which calls for restored neon signs to be placed in the median from Washington Avenue to Sahara Avenue.

There will probably be 17 signs in all, said Danielle Kelly, operations manager for the Neon Museum, which is providing the signs. Possible future restored signs include ones from the Algiers Hotel, the Black Jack Motel and the City Center Motel.

"Everyone is working really hard to have the signs restored to their original condition," she said. "We’re not rebuilding anything.

"It’s exciting not just to see them restored, but to see them displayed."

The current $1.1 million project includes the three signs and improvements to the medians in what’s known as the Cultural Corridor because of the concentration of museums there, along with the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Historic Park.

Of that total, $240,000 came from sales of Las Vegas Centennial license plates for refurbishing the signs. The rest, about $900,000, paid for the median improvements and comes from the city of Las Vegas. The Bow and Arrow sign was restored earlier using private donations.

That made it the easiest of the three to deal with because the internal electronics didn’t have to be replaced, said Mark Whitehouse, account executive with Ultrasigns, which is performing the restorations.

It just had to be sanded, repainted and relettered. The other two signs weren’t in as good a shape. Both needed the wiring and sockets to be completely replaced, and the Silver Slipper’s toe was damaged. The rotating motor for the Binion’s sign had to be replaced, and both had to be repainted.

Even with the restoration, the signs show their age, Whitehouse said.

"There’s only so much you can do," he said. "The years and the hot desert sun has taken its toll, like it does on anything."

Still, he said he feels like he "got in a time machine" and traveled to an era when the now-iconic signs were being created.

"At this point, they’ve become pieces. Art pieces," Whitehouse said. "This is something we’d all like to do, and I’m doing it."

The Bow and Arrow Motel used to be located at Las Vegas Boulevard and Wyoming Avenue, near Dino’s.

The Horseshoe on Fremont Street opened in 1950 and was renamed Binion’s Horseshoe in 1966. It closed in 2004, was sold and reopened in 2005 as Binion’s.

The Silver Slipper reigned at 3100 Las Vegas Blvd. South, next to the New Frontier, from the 1950s to 1988, when it was sold and demolished.

One vintage sign was already on display at Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont Street: the Hacienda horse and rider from the Hacienda Hotel, which was where the Mandalay Bay stands today. Other classic signs from the Neon Museum can be viewed at Neonopolis, next to the Fremont Street Experience.

Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate @reviewjournal.com or 702-229-6435.

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