The Neon Boneyard Museum is a nonprofit group which collects and restores neon signs from historic Las Vegas hotels, casinos and other sites. The museum does guided tours of the collection, which focuses on the social history of Las Vegas as illuminated by the area’s neon signs, both famous and obscure.
Here are some photos from a tour.
The museum’s visitor center and gift shop. it is itself a Las Vegas icon—it was the lobby of the La Concha Hotel, which was moved to the museum site in pieces and reassembled.
The sign from the La Concha Hotel
The oldest sign in the collection, from the Green Shack. Originally run as a Prohibition-era speakeasy, the Shack was reborn as a legit diner/bar to serve the workers on the Hoover Dam project. The sign dates from around 1934.
Binion’s Horseshoe, founded in 1951—it is now the Binion’s Gambling Hall. Binion’s was the first Vegas casino to offer its patrons perks like free drinks to entice them to stay and gamble longer.
The Silver Slipper, founded in 1950. It was temporarily closed down in 1964 for running rigged games, then was bought by Howard Hughes, who also owned several other Vegas casinos. The Hughes Era cleaned out the Mafia (theoretically) and led to corporate ownership of Vegas’s hotel/casinos.
The Sahara. From 1952 to 2011 it was one of the most famous of the Vegas casinos. It went broke and closed down in 2011, and was purchased by a real estate company and reopened in 2013 as the SLS Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.
Opening in 1942, the Frontier was bought by Howard Hughes in 1967, sold again in 1988, and closed down and was demolished in 2007.
The Desert Rose. Opened in 1953, it was just a motel and had no casino, but became a city landmark. It closed in 1995.
Treasure Island pirate skull. In 1993, the Treasure Island casino tried to market itself as more “family-friendly”—it remodeled itself with a “pirate” theme and had nightly pirate shows. After ten years, with the effort failing miserably, Treasure Island took down its pirate skulls and became “adult-oriented” once again.
Pink feather from the Flamingo Hotel. Opened 1946. Although it was not the first casino in Vegas, it quickly became the biggest and most popular. Financed by Mafia gangsters Meyer Lansky and Moe Dalitz, it was run by Bugsy Siegel until he was shot in 1947. The hotel went through several ownership changes, and is now run by Caesar’s Entertainment. It is the oldest casino still in existence.
The Moulin Rouge. When it opened in 1955, the Rouge caused a social revolution: it was the only casino that was desegregated and allowed African-Americans as guests and patrons. In 1960, a meeting between African-American leaders and the Nevada Governor took place here, resulting in the “Moulin Rouge Agreement” that desegregated the entire city. The Rouge was not as adept financially as it was politically: the casino declared bankruptcy and closed just a year after opening, although the building is still maintained.
The Stardust. Opened in 1958, the Stardust became one of the most successful casinos in Vegas. But it was most famous for its neon signage. Since the actual original building was just a plain wood structure, the owners covered the whole front with neon, making it one of the largest neon signs in the world. But by 2007 the Stardust had gone broke and was demolished.
The Aladdin operated from 1966 to 1998. It is most famous as the site of Elvis Presley’s wedding to Priscilla in 1967. After some Mafia infiltration, the resort was closed down by the state in 1979, then reopened in 1980 under new owners, only to once again fall under Mafia control, be closed down again, reopened in 1987, then closed for good in 1997.
The Desert Inn, operated from 1950 to 2000. Financed by mobster Moe Dalitz, the hotel was under constant investigation. In 1966, Howard Hughes rented an entire floor of the hotel: when his ten-day reservation was over, he bought the entire hotel so he wouldn’t have to leave. Hughes lived as a recluse at the Desert Inn for the next four years. After Hughes’ death, the hotel underwent a renovation by new owners, but went broke and was closed in 2000.