Vegas’ First Red Light District


Unofficially, Las Vegas was born on May 15, 1905. This was the date when William Clark’s San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroad auctioned off 1200 lots. This auction launched a wave of new buildings and businesses that eventually evolved into the city we know today.

The lots were within a 110 acre tract of land and consisted of town sites. The map pictured is of the original town sites as they were 1905. The boundaries of the town sites were Stewart Avenue on the north, Main Street on the west, 5th Street (Las Vegas Blvd) on the east, and Garces on the south.

The Railroad had, in 1902, purchased 1800 acres of land from Helen Stewart. Stewart was owner of the Las Vegas Ranch at the time. The sale included the water rights which were necessary to ensure the town’s survival and the railroad’s success.

This sale made Las Vegas the perfect midway stop for the railroad. The stage was then set for the 1905 auction and the birth of a town that by all logic should have never existed. Who would have thought that a watering hole in the middle of the Mojave Desert could survive, much less become an international city. A bookie probably wouldn’t have taken that bet.

There were two blocks in the new town that became notorious-Blocks 16 and 17. Originally, these two blocks were set aside as places where liquor could be sold without a license. By 1910, Block 16 added to its charm. It became the home of open prostitution. There were hotels and saloons on the Block, but prostitution was a major draw and set it apart from its neighboring Block 17.



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