Former township steeped in history of Union Pacific Railroad

In the southwest part of town, near the railroad tracks south of Blue Diamond Road, stands an unfamiliar site to many valley residents: a water tower.

The tall tower is one of the last remaining memories of the township of Arden, originally a rail siding on the Union Pacific line that runs to Los Angeles.

The Arden Plaster Co. was founded in 1907 and harvested gypsum from the Blue Diamond mine.

According to Mark Hall-Patton, director of Clark County museums, the town and the company that started it were named for the director of the Union Pacific Railroad E.H. Harriman’s New York estate.

"I doubt whether (Arden) had a hundred people at its peak," Hall-Patton said of the township now engulfed by Las Vegas sprawl.

Willverna Leavitt, now in her 90s, lived in Arden until she was 8 years old.

"My father worked as an engineer for the mines," she said. "He drove the flats from Blue Diamond mine filled with gypsum to the factory, where they’d crush it."

A narrow gauge set of tracks, smaller than standard tracks at 3 feet across, ran west toward the mine and met back up with the main line just south of the still-standing water tower. The old tracks end at a residential property just south of the intersection of Blue Diamond Road and Monte Cristo Way, and a tanker still rests on the tracks.

Leavitt attended grade school in the town’s one-room schoolhouse.

"The school wasn’t very big," she said. "My sister skipped the fifth grade because there weren’t any other fifth-graders."

She said what is left of her memories of Arden are fond ones, including the nights the children would meet under the streetlight and play "run, sheep, run," similar to hide and seek.

"I had a big black dog named Ted," she said. "The dog went with me everywhere. I loved him so much."

Leavitt’s Arden was a town of hardworking men from all over, looking for steady pay.

"There was a bunkhouse on the edge of town for the single men, and the (Chinese) would cook for them," she said. "We didn’t go around the bunkhouse much. Our mother wouldn’t let us."

She added that many of the people were from Mesquite, "drifting in and out."

Arden, which was without power lines until the early 1970s, was also home to the Clark County Emergency Operations Center at the Civil Defense Headquarters.

Hall-Patton said the site served as a bomb shelter for the valley’s politicians during the 1950s and ’60s.

"The politicians would have run the valley from there," he said. "It was a big deal. With the test site up north, the county was considered a target."

The bomb shelter, mine and railroad tracks have been decommissioned, but the water tower still functions, standing as a monument to the memory of the hardworking people of Arden.

Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Nolan Lister at nlister@viewnews.com or 383-0492.

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