With the beats thumping at dayclubs through a never-ending streak of triple-digit days, Las Vegas pools are a relief from the heat and a scene all to themselves. But the history of taking a dip in the summer sun didn't start when the Hard Rock Hotel launched Rehab.
Las Vegas and making a splash have gone hand-in-hand as far back as local history allows. Here are some historical images of pools from the UNLV Libraries Special Collections and Archives that might provide some virtual refreshment.
Early Las Vegas residents such as these gentlemen (circa 1905-1910) found a way to cool off by taking a dip in the Las Vegas springs.
Back then, local residents might also cool off in the concrete “plunge” which was part of the Vegas Park Resort at the old Las Vegas ranch. Fed by the long-gone Las Vegas Creek, the water at the plunge was warm, and the pool itself was surrounded by wooden changing shacks as shown in the photo below.
By June 1911, Las Vegans could also go for a swim in the pool at Ladd’s Resort on east Fremont between 12th and 15th streets, where a row of cottonwood trees provided shade and there was a pavilion for dancing. In fact, the pages of the Las Vegas Age reveal that both Ladd’s Resort and the Vegas Park Resort offered social dances and live orchestra music alongside their swimming pools in these early years. The image of Ladd’s Resort below dates from the 1920s.
In 1922, residents were afforded a third swimming option when David Lorenzi built his resort just two miles northwest of the railroad tracks. Like Ladd’s and Vegas Park, it had a dance pavilion and swimming pool, but Lorenzi upped the resort feel by adding two artificial lakes for boating. It was a popular spot for Fourth of July celebrations in the 1920s and 1930s, and still exists today as Lorenzi Park. A colorful postcard from the 1930s shows off the lovely artificial lakes created by Lorenzi.
While these small public pools accommodated the small population of Las Vegas residents in search of a cool dip, something else was needed when the first casino resort hotels on the Highway 91 corridor (the future Las Vegas Boulevard) began to attract tourists to the desert town in the early 1940s. Whereas today’s Las Vegas Strip resort pools are hidden away amidst the glamorous tangle of towers and landscaping, the swimming pools on Highway 91 in those early days were typically located in front of the hotel as a way to attract customers driving by on a hot summer day.
The El Rancho Vegas was one of the earliest hotel casino resorts designed in this fashion, seen in this image from the 1940s.
It wasn’t long before swimming pools were placed in the heart of the resort — surrounded by the mid-rise buildings and swaying palm trees that made up the typical hotel-casino landscape of the 1940s-50s. Although the pools of yesteryear may not have featured the full-service cabanas of today’s poolside service, they still have a glamorous feel to them, like at the Thunderbird in the early 1950s.
A playful seahorse fountain sprays water at tourists in the Dunes Hotel swimming pool and the postcard below provides perspective on its central location in the heart of the resort. Ironically, the Bellagio fountains now entertain tourists on the same spot, with the hotel having replaced the Dunes back in 1998.
While the swimming pools on the Strip today are undoubtedly larger and offer more sophisticated amenities, these photos take us back to a simpler time when Las Vegas offered tourists a quieter and more intimate vacation experience. To explore more historical images of swimming pools in Las Vegas over the years, visit the Digital Collections website.