The Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign is a Las Vegas Strip landmark funded in May 1959 and erected soon after by Western Neon. The sign was designed by Betty Willis at the request of Ted Rogich, a local salesman, who sold it to Clark County, Nevada.
Willis embarked on developing a sign that was unique in its shape, style and content. The sign is a 25-foot tall classic roadside pole design, mounted offset on two flat poles which are joined by a cross piece at the top. The poles extend above the top of the sign. The sign is a horizontally stretched diamond shape, with the top and bottom angles pointed while the side angles are rounded. It is double-backed, internally lit, with a border of flashing and chasing yellow incandescent bulbs outside around the perimeter. In a nod to Nevada’s nickname as “the Silver State,” across the top of the sign are white neon circles, designed to represent silver dollars. The circles each contain a red painted letter, outlined in neon, which together form the word “Welcome.” Crowning the sign, located between the two poles and just under the crosspiece is an eight-pointed, red-painted metal star outlined with yellow neon. The intersecting vertical and horizontal lines of the star extend over and wrap around the frame that is created by the two poles and the cross piece, which give the star a dynamic, explosive appearance. The cabinet is faced with translucent white plastic and covered with blue and red painted text. The south side of the sign reads “Welcome” inside the silver dollars, with “to Fabulous” in blue, in a 1950s-style cursive, underneath. The words “Las Vegas” are on the next line in red, all capitalized, and large, almost filling the width of the sign. Under “Las Vegas” is the word “Nevada” in blue, all capitalized, in a much smaller font. On the back or north side, the sign reads “Drive” on the top line and “Carefully” on the second in red capital letters, with “Come Back” in blue on the third line, in script, and “Soon” all capitalized in blue on the fourth line. The design is characteristic of the Googie architecture movement.
The sign is currently located in the median at 5100 Las Vegas Boulevard South, north of the historic stone pillars of the old McCarran Airport on the east side, and across from the Bali Hai Golf Club and the (closed) Klondike Hotel & Casino on the west side. Some consider the sign to be the official southern end of the Las Vegas Strip. The sign, like most of the strip, sits in the town of Paradise and is located roughly four miles south of the actual city limits of Las Vegas. (Such distinctions are usually ignored by both locals and tourists, who refer to the entire metro area as “Las Vegas”.)
Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) currently owns the sign, which leases it to Clark County, while the design itself is in the public domain. The design of the sign was never copyrighted since Willis considered this her gift to the city and wanted it to be in the public domain. This has resulted in the image being ubiquitous on Las Vegas souvenirs.
Over the years, the sign has been moved south several times on Las Vegas Boulevard as growth has continued, although there is no documentation to support that statement, either with Clark County or with the sign’s owner.
On October 4, 1999, the sign went dark for about a month when the company that had been paying the power bill was bought by another company who did not pay the bill. When the problem was discovered, payment of the past due amount, under $60, was made, and power was turned back on.
With the sign so far away from the city itself, in 2002, the Las Vegas City Council erected a Welcome to Fabulous Downtown Las Vegas sign on Las Vegas Boulevard just within the city limits of the City of Las Vegas proper.
On September 28, 2004, souvenir replicas of the sign that light up were sold to benefit the Nevada Cancer Institute.
On March 6, 2007, another replica of the sign, larger than the original, was installed on Boulder Highway just north of Tropicana Ave. Like the original, it does not mark the border with Las Vegas; instead, it “represents the understood gateway from the Boulder Highway to Las Vegas.” This is according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Later in 2007, Clark County installed decorative artificial turf inlaid with four playing cards underneath the sign.
On January 31, 2008, the sign turned red in support of National Wear Red Day. The American Heart Association‘s Go Red for Women campaign sought to educate the public on women’s risk of cardiovascular disease and promote the importance of women getting screened for heart disease.
On December 8, 2008, a small parking lot was opened in the median of Las Vegas Boulevard to allow official public access to the sign for the first time. The artificial turf was replaced, but without the playing cards. Prior to the parking lot’s construction, visitors to the sign were forced to cross the northbound or southbound lanes of Las Vegas Blvd. without the benefit of any traffic signal or crosswalk. While no one is known to have been killed while trying to access the sign, increasing traffic at the south end of the Strip has made a crossing increasingly dangerous. The new parking lot provides 10 standard parking spaces, two handicapped spaces, and two large spaces for buses or limousines.
On March 13, 2009 Clark County nominated the sign for listing on the National Register of Historic Places with the listing receiving approval on on May 1, 2009. (The registration form is available to the public.)
On May 14, 2009, Mayor Oscar Goodman and the Playboy playmate Holly Madison coincided the start of summer with the sign’s 50th anniversary. Part of the celebration was making it in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest bikini parade, followed by pool parties throughout the city. The event kicked off in front of the sign with a runway-style retrospective featuring bathing suits from the 1950s to today.
The lights from the sign are removed and offered as a commemorative souvenir. OfficialLasVegasLight.com donates a portion of the proceeds from the sales to local charities.
|Location:||5100 Las Vegas Blvd South Paradise, Nevada, 89119|
|Coordinates:||36°4′55.4″N 115°10′22″W / 36.082056°N 115.17278°W / 36.082056; -115.17278Coordinates: 36°4′55.4″N 115°10′22″W / 36.082056°N 115.17278°W / 36.082056; -115.17278|
|Added to NRHP:||May 1, 2009|
This story is for educational purposes only
Link to another picture: http://my.nowpublic.com/environment/famous-welcome-las-vegas-sign