Story of the Strip And The Man Who Named It
Many people, because of the movies and television programs think Bugsy Siegel was a visionary and foresaw the future of the Las Vegas Strip. This is not the case. Not even close. So, if he was not that person, who was? What is the true story about the visionary who did see the future of the Strip?
If you read many books or watch YouTube videos about the history of the Las Vegas Strip, you will hear several visionary candidates put forth. The answer really depends on when one thinks the Strip had its birth and what establishment was the starting point in its history. But, there was one man who saw the Strip’s potential and in some ways launched it. Of course, the Strip was not called that back then. It was Highway 91.
One person we could consider is Thomas Hull, a California hotelier who built the first hotel and casino on the strip, the El Rancho. It opened in 1941.
You may see Billy Wilkerson’s name mentioned. He is the one who actually began building the Flamingo before Bugsy Siegel even became a partner. However, the Flamingo was opened a good five years after the El Rancho so we can mark out both Wilkerson and Siegel from the prospect list.
If we back up a decade, to 1930, we can find the first real establishment on the Strip. It was called the Pair-O-Dice. A couple by the name of Frank and Angelina Detra were the proprietors. Their establishment was planted where the now imploded Frontier used to be.
The Detras were not really envisioning a future building boom for that area. They were more concerned with getting outside the city limits of Las Vegas and the reach of the local cops. Their establishment was a private nightclub that offered alcohol during prohibition. They also offered gambling which was also illegal until 1931. The Detras were pioneers for sure, but not visionaries.
In 1939, a man named Guy McAfee, a former police officer from Los Angeles, bought the club from the Detras. He remodeled, upgraded, and reopened it under a new name, the 91 Club, because it was located on Highway 91, which today is the Strip. He also coined the term, “The Strip.”
Therefore, Guy McAfee is the person who did see the prospects for a strip like the Sunset Strip he knew so well back in LA. We will award him the title of visionary for the Las Vegas Strip. His hunch has proved to be true way beyond anything he could have imagined at the time. So, now you know the true story of the Strip and its visionary.
You can read our prior article about Bugsy Siegel and the many myths that surround his story here: