The Day That Changed Las Vegas Forever


It has been said that life can change on a dime All of us know that in our own lives things can change quickly and permanently. One day in history did change Las Vegas forever.

It was May 15, 1905. Las Vegas was still a fledgling settlement with only a small number of permanent residents. It was a watering hole in the middle of the Mojave Desert and not a great choice for an easy life or getting rich.

The San Pedro, LA, and Salt Lake Railroad held the land auction that made this date the most important in Las Vegas history. Had this event not taken place, Las Vegas would likely not be anything similar to what it is today.

This May 15th date marked the official founding of Las Vegas. We have seen books and publications report that this was the date that Las Vegas was incorporated. This is not correct. Incorporation was still six years in the future. Las Vegas was incorporated on March 16, 1911 when Governor Tasker Oddie signed the incorporation papers.

When the day of the auction arrived it was 110 degrees.  1,000 investors and interested parties gathered for the event. At 10 a.m. on May 15th, auctioneer Ben E. Rhoades,  picked up his gavel, and began his calls for bids. 179 lots were purchased that day. The auction continued and ended the next day on May 16th.

The railroad offered 1200 lots, 110 acres worth of land, including prime lots in the center of town. The boundaries were, on the west, Main Street, on the East 5th Street or Las Vegas Boulevard. On the North, Stewart Avenue, and on the South Garces Ave. When the dust settled, $265,000 went into the railroad’s bank account and Las Vegas was born.

Three years prior to the auction, in 1902,  Helen J. Stewart sold 1834 acres of her Las Vegas Ranch to Senator William Clark’s San Pedro, LA, and Salt Lake City Railroad. The water available in the Las Vegas area made it the perfect railroad stop, about half way, between Salt Lake City and LA.

A few weeks before the auction a building spree had already begun. By the auction date approximately 150 buildings were either completed or in progress.

Learn more about Helen J. Stewart who paved the way for Las Vegas’ founding. Our previous article her can be found here.


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