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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Art Moderne... Las Vegas' rediscovered architectural past...

Over the last several years I have grown fond of an interesting architectural style that has seen a recent revivalism in Las Vegas. Art Moderne or simply Moderne is a close relative to Art Deco, a style of architecture that was well known in large cities such as New York, Miami and Los Angeles in the 1920's and 30's. It was not until recently that I began rediscovering Moderne architecture in Las Vegas.

Huntridge Theater
1208 East Charleston Blvd.
Las Vegas is notorious for demolition and as such I was more shocked then surprised when I kept on running into decent examples of this architectural style throughout Downtown. The finest example of Moderne Architecture in Southern Nevada is Hoover Dam, designed by Architect Gordon Kaufmann. As a matter of fact the dam itself was used as inspiration for the design of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts currently under construction at Symphony Park. Though the examples of Moderne in Downtown are not nearly as sophisticated as Hoover Dam or the Smith Center, the examples that do exist are clearly of that architectural style. Moderne architecture was used in Las Vegas as late as 1949.

The most well known of the Moderne structures in Downtown is the Huntridge Theater. Built in 1944 at the height of World War II, the vulnerable structure on Charleston Boulevard is the finest example of Streamline Moderne in Las Vegas. The theater was designed by famed Architect S. Charles Lee who was best known for creating some of the most important theaters on the West Coast. The Huntridge was listed on the National Registry of Historic places in 1993 and is the gateway to the historic Huntridge neighborhood located directly south of the theater.

Moderne Architecture is a close relative to Art Deco and the predecessor of Mid-Century Modern design in the United States. Moderne like Art Deco emphasized the decorative arts influenced by industrial design. Whereas Art Deco was rich in opulent textiles and geometric designs, Moderne emphasized simplicity and the look and functionality of aerodynamics. Moderne design uses height as a focus with lots of vertical lines that draw the eyes upward. Moderne is also known for the use of glass block windows, curved walls emphasizing the aerodynamic, aluminum and stuccoed surfaces.

As demonstrated from the collection of images below you will clearly see the design elements that make up Moderne Architecture. I took close to 200 images of buildings and their elements that make up the design; far too many to feature on this blog. I also took images of fine examples of Moderne revivalism that has sprung up throughout Downtown over the last several years.

So far I have identified at least 22 examples of Moderne or Art Deco architecture in Downtown with 10 examples of Moderne Revivalism. I have listed them below with corresponding images. There are other structures that are hybrids between Moderne and Mid-Century Modern that I have identified but I have not listed yet. I also do not have a list of dates yet to correspond with most of the buildings, so please bare with me as I am continuing my research.

It is heartwarming to know that Las Vegas still has these wonderful examples of Moderne Architecture dating back as early as 1931. But sadly most of these vulnerable buildings are in poor shape and might not last for very much longer. So go out and explore and see if you can find a few more... Happy hunting!

Surviving Moderne/ Art Deco in Downtown...

  • Bank Building - Regency Moderne (200 Las Vegas Blvd. S. & Carson)
  • Super Cleaners - Formerly Modern Cleaners (800 Las Vegas Blvd. S. & Gass)
  • Clark Avenue Railroad Underpass Bridge (Bonanza & Main) Not Shown
  • Charleston Underpass Bridge (Charleston and Commerce St.) Not Shown
  • Fabulous Las Vegas Jewelry & Gifts (300 Fremont Street & 3rd)
  • Emergency Arts Building (520 Fremont Street & 6th)
  • Society Cleaners (1031 Fremont Street & 11th)
  • Americas Best Building (1600 Fremont Street)
  • Blue Building (1715 Fremont Street)
  • Ixtapa Furniture (1201 South Main - Arts District)
  • Jack Gallery (1st & Hoover - Arts District)
  • Las Vegas Ballet School (1039 Main Street - Arts District)
  • Johnny Tocco Boxing Gym (9th West Charleston & Main)
  • Furniture Outlet (1237 South Main & Colorado - Arts District)
  • Payless Bail Bonds (831 South Main)
  • Downtowner Motel Apts (129 N. 8th St.)
  • Unknown Building  (11th & Garces)
  • Las Vegas Academy (315 S. 7th)
  • Las Vegas Academy Frazier Hall (7th Street)
  • Las Vegas Academy Music Complex originally Public School Administration Building (Lewis & 9th)
  • City of Las Vegas Annex Building (Las Vegas Blvd. N. & Stewart) Not Shown
  • Beauty Bar and Don't Tell Mama's Lounges (517 Fremont Street) Not Shown

Moderne on Las Vegas Boulevard...

Bank Building (Regency Moderne)
200 Las Vegas Boulevard South at Carson
Bank Building window detail (Regency Moderne)
200 Las Vegas Boulevard South at Carson
Teller Window polished aluminum (Regency Moderne)
200 Las Vegas Boulevard South at Carson
Super Cleaners - formerly Modern Cleaners (streamline Moderne)
800 Las Vegas Boulevard South

Moderne on Fremont Street...

Fabulous Las Vegas Jewelry & Gifts (Streamline Moderne)
300 Fremont Street
Emergency Arts - formerly Fremont Medical Center & J.C. Penny's
(International & Mid Century Modern)
520 Fremont Street 
Emergency Arts polished aluminum railing detail
(Hybrid Moderne & Mid Century Modern)
520 Fremont Street 
Society Cleaners (Streamline Moderne)
1031 East Fremont Street
Americas Best Building (Hybrid Moderne)
1600 East Fremont Street
Blue Building (Streamline Moderne)
1715 East Fremont Street
Moderne in the Arts District...

Ixtapa Furniture (Streamline Moderne)
1201 South Main Street (arts district)
Jack Gallery (Streamline Moderne)
1st Street at Boulder (arts district)
Las Vegas Ballet School (Streamline Moderne)
1039 Main Street (arts district)
Johnny Tocco Boxing Gym
9 West Charleston Boulevard
Furniture Outlet (Moderne hybrid)
1237 S. Main Street
Furniture Outlet (Moderne hybrid)
1237 S. Main Street
Payless Bail Bonds (Streamline Moderne)
831 South Main Street

Moderne in Downtown Environs...

Downtowner Motel Apts (Moderne possible revival)
129 North 8th Street
Downtowner Motel Apts (Moderne possible revival)
129 North 8th Street
Unknown Building (Moderne)
11th and Garces

Las Vegas Academy - Mayan Art Deco...

Las Vegas Academy (Mayan Art Deco)
315 South 7th
Las Vegas Academy Frazier Hall Addition (Mayan Art Deco)
Las Vegas Academy Music Complex (Moderne)
Originally Public Schools Administration Building

Moderne Revivalism in Downtown 
  • Soho Lofts (Las Vegas Blvd. So. & Hoover)
  • Streamline Tower (Las Vegas Blvd. No. & Ogden)
  • L'Octaine Apartments (Las Vegas Blvd So, & Gass)
  • Ice House Lounge (Main & Bonneville) 
  • The Las Vegas Club (Main & Ogden)
  • The Smith Center for the Performing Arts (Symphony Park)
  • Club Celebrity (3rd & Ogden) Not shown
  • The Gold Spike Hotel (Ogden & 4th) Not shown
  • The Fremont Hotel (Fremont Street) Not shown
  • Ogden Bridge at Main

Ice House Lounge
650 South Main Street
Las Vegas Club Hotel Tower Addition
Main and Ogden
The Smith Center for the Performing Arts
Symphony Park - Est. Opening 2012
Streamline Tower
150 Las Vegas Boulevard North
Soho Lofts
900 Las Vegas Boulevard South
L'Octaine Building
801 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Ogden Bridge near Main
(Photo Credit Brian Paco Alvarez)

Brian Paco Alvarez enculturating Las Vegas into the millennium...

posted by Brian Paco Alvarez, Curator and Chronicler of Culture at


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