Vintage neon signs set for display in Las Vegas

Thunderbird Motel neon sign, sold for $24,000 by RM Auctions on June 11, 2006. Image courtesy Archive.

Thunderbird Motel neon sign, sold for $24,000 by RM Auctions on June 11, 2006. Image courtesy Archive.

LAS VEGAS (AP) – It’s a touch of old Vegas: Vintage neon signs are being restored and will adorn a stretch of downtown’s Las Vegas Boulevard.

About 17 signs, some from casinos dating to the 1950s, will be part of the boulevard’s Scenic Byways Plan, said Danielle Kelly, operations manager for the Neon Museum, which is providing the signs.

The signs – including the horseshoe that once topped Binion’s Horseshoe casino and the slipper from the Silver Slipper next to the New Frontier casino – recall earlier years of the city that grew out of the desert to become America’s gambling mecca.

“Everyone is working really hard to have the signs restored to their original condition,” Kelly told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Workers recently installed the sign from the Bow and Arrow Motel at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Bonanza Road. It was restored earlier using private donations and was in pretty good shape and only had to be sanded, repainted and relettered. Its internal electronics didn’t have to be replaced, said Mark Whitehouse, an account executive with Ultrasigns, which is doing the restorations.

The Hacienda horse and rider from the Hacienda Hotel, where the Mandalay Bay stands today, was already on display. Other sign candidates include those from the Algiers Hotel, the Black Jack Motel and the City Center Motel.

So far the project has gotten $240,000 from the sale of Las Vegas Centennial license plates to refurbish three signs. About $900,000 from the city went for median improvements in the Cultural Corridor.

Whitehouse said restoring the signs has been like getting in a time machine.

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


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