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A History of Paradise Palms

 There’s no doubt that the award-winning tagline “What Happens Here, Stays Here” is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon. The slogan rebranded Las Vegas as more than just a gambling destination, but put us on the map as a place for adult freedom and empowerment. 

The catchphrase left a remarkable imprint in the larger pop culture landscape, but any true Las Vegan knows a more accurate motto would be “Out with the Old.” This city has a tendency to replace, demolish, or gentrify any prime real estate once it’s old enough to legally rent a car. 

In the last decade, Las Vegas had made a larger effort in preserving and restoring cherished local structures. Primarily in the downtown Arts District, Fremont, and Huntridge neighborhoods. But what about the little guys? The neighborhoods that are rich in history and beauty, but not located in the middle of a larger gentrification overhaul. 

The Nevada Preservation Foundation is our state’s only nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and revitalizing historic buildings, communities, and places in Las Vegas and throughout Nevada.

They offer a variety of programs including lectures, heritage tours, community events, social meet ups, monthly newsletters and volunteer opportunities that foster a greater understanding of Nevada’s cultural legacy.

Through education, and advocacy their efforts include responding to specific threats, assisting property owners and residents with historic designation, educating our community and professionals in preservation practices and supporting stronger preservation policies and incentives.

I recently attended the foundation’s Paradise Lost? Walking Tour. We traveled back in time for a history lesson on Las Vegas’ Mid-century modern housing community Paradise Palms for a two-hour stroll through the neighborhood.

Located in central Las Vegas, two miles north of UNLV, development for Paradise Palms began in 1960, it is regarded as the first master-planned community in Las Vegas.

In its peak, Paradise Palms was the home to numerous entertainers, celebrities, and notable members of the Las Vegas business and gaming community. Notable residents included Johnny Carson, Sonny Liston, Debbie Reynolds, and Phyllis Diller. 

A majority of the houses were designed by the architecture firm Palmer & Krisel. They were responsible for the signature colorful landscapes that shaped Palm Springs status as a vacation destination. 

Floor plans for the homes featured various models and elevations, no residence was identical. Trademark roof styles included: folded plate, butterfly, ranch, and dramatic overhangs. Other stylistic identifiers included long glass panels, unique block work designs, and flamboyant pastel colors. 

Floor plan brochures from 1963.

 The yards were fully landscaped, complete with palm tree, optional swimming pools, wall-to-wall wool carpeting, vinyl kitchen flooring, natural wood cabinetry, fireplaces and large sliding glass doors overlooking the terrace and pool areas.

Paradise Palms resident Eugene Unger was a participant in the walking tour. Unger was immediately drawn to Paradise Palms when he moved to Las Vegas from San Diego in 2000. “It has a unique feel. Very different from the typical Summerlin style beige-houses,” he said.

He takes pride in his neighborhood, not just because of its aesthetic appeal, but the community at large. “We’re all friends, we help out with each other,” said Unger. “We have socials once a month, we all know each other, and go into each other’s homes to see the different styles.”

In 2017, a portion of Paradise Palms became the first historically designated neighborhood in Clark County, advocacy from the Nevada Preservation Foundation and neighborhood residents were paramount in making this happen. 

Each Saturday in the month of October, the Nevada Preservation Foundation is hosting a walking tour through Las Vegas’ oldest cemetery. During Tombstone Tales: Woodlawn Cemetery Walking Tour, they will unearth familiar and unfamiliar stories of the names that made an impact on Nevada who are buried at Woodlawn. 

To learn more about the Nevada Preservation Foundation visit their website