The Real Strip Visionaries (Part One)
This is fascinating. Very few people, even Vegas regulars and residents know who the real Strip visionaries really were. We will talk about two of them. One today and one tomorrow. If you love Vegas history and want to know more than 99% of other people, read on.
As we have reported before, a majority of folks, because of the movies, books, and television programs think Bugsy Siegel was a visionary and foresaw the future of the Las Vegas Strip. This is not the case. So, if he was not that person, who was?
If you read the many books or watch YouTube videos about the history of the Las Vegas Strip, you will hear several 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.
We could consider 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.
You can read our prior article about Bugsy Siegel and the many myths that surround his story here: