The Neon Museum is where Las Vegas neon signs retire. This non-profit museum was founded in 1996 by the Allied Arts Council of Southern Nevada and the City of Las Vegas. The idea for the Museum began when the Allied Arts Council and Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) decided that they wanted to preserve the signs as a representation of Las Vegas history.
The museums mission statement states: We collect, preserve, study and exhibit neon signs and associated artifacts to inspire educational and cultural enrichment for diverse members of our international community.
The outdoor museum features donated, restored signs on a three-acre lot that is leased by the city of Las Vegas for a dollar a year. Originally YESCO owned many of the the neon signs from such landmark casinos like the Stardust, Tam O’ Shanters, the Silver Slipper, Binion’s Horseshoe and the Sahara. The signs were then rented to the casinos and various companies. When the signs were returned, YESCO stored them in their Boneyard. Once the Neon Museum began to come to fruition, YESCO donated or loaned the museum their most significant signs.
The Neon Museum offers docent-led tours as well as educational programming, and will also include a retail shop and cafe in their La Concha lobby, which is currently undergoing renovation and will afterward serve as the museum’s main visitor center.
The wavy, arched, shell-like design of the La Concha Lobby is a form of architectural design referred to as Googie. This style was influenced by the the Atomic Ages. It originated in California in the 1940s and soon spread throughout the country; Seattle’s famous Space Needle is another famous landmark fashioned in this style. The Neon Museum’s new lobby was originally part of the La Concha Motel lobby, built in 1961. The La Concha’s unique structure was designed by renowned architect Paul Revere Williams. Mr. Williams was born in Los Angeles in 1894 and was the first African-American member of the American Institute of Architects. Originally this amazing structure was scheduled for demolition, but with the help of the legendary Doumani family was instead relocated to the Neon Museum in 2006.
The Neon Museum is on the cusp of finishing their final renovations; construction is currently slated for completion in mid-2012. Tours are available on an ongoing basis and visitors can see many of the classic signs in the museum’s outdoor Boneyard, as well as the La Concha Lobby building.
Some of my personal favorite and widely recognizable signs include:
The Stardust Letters from the iconic hotel and casino which opened in 1958 and is credited as the first Las Vegas casino to have a theme. The font is representative of the atomic era and is one of the largest neon signs at the Neon Museum.
Mr. O’Lucky, a fiberglass leprechaun from Fitzgerald’s on Fremont Street. In his original glory he was a kinetic animated fellow who would wave his hat. Although not neon, the museum’s board recognizes him as a local icon and thus includes him in the permanent collection. Although vandalism in recent years resulted in fire damage, his spirit has not been extinguished.
Royal Nevada is a crown shaped sign that dates to 1950s, with its style and font indicative of that era.
Finally the sign from the old Golden Nugget, a classic Las Vegas casino which has been located on Fremont Street since 1946.
Check out The Neon Museum for up to date information and location.