People often ask which signs we wish had been saved. While we prefer that historic signs remain in their original locations for as long as possible, here are a few lost signs of Las Vegas that we wish would have survived one way or another. 

The Mint

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The Mint, 1957, UNLV Digital Collections

In 1957, architects Walter Zick and Harris Sharp teamed with YESCO sign designers Hermon Boernge and Kermit Wayne to create a groundbreaking sign for the new downtown Mint Hotel.  They seamlessly fused a horizontal “eyebrow” with a soaring 85-foot blade sign.

Photograph of the Mint tower under construction (Las Vegas), 1965

The Mint tower construction, 1965, UNLV Digital Collections

In 1959, YESCO produced “The Mint: Birth of a Giant,” a two-part documentary that followed the development of the display from initial design to final installation. The sign was replaced when the Mint was purchased by Binion’s Horseshoe in 1988, although it is still possible to glimpse a small section of it today. To find out more, look for future postings on this blog!

 2016.010.021 Anita Rosenberg Collection

Dell Webb’s Mint, February 1988, Anita Roseberg Collection, Neon Museum, 1988

The Dunes

The Dunes was home to several signs that met tragic ends. 

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UNLV Digital Collections, Culinary Workers Union Local 226 collection, 1950s-1960s

The smiling Dunes Sultan, a towering fiberglass statue created by YESCO, greeted guests from the roof of the hotel when it opened in 1955. In 1964, the Sultan relocated to the golf course, where he served as a highway sign along I-15. He was destroyed by fire in the late 1980s. 

Disassembly of the Dunes Sultan, 1964. Vintage Las Vegas.

Disassembly of the Dunes Sultan, 1964,  

 Sultan at the Dunes golf course, I-15, Las Vegas, October 1977

Dunes Sultan, 1977.,, Unknown photographer, Donaldson Collection, Michael Ochs Archive 

The Dunes pylon sign was designed by Lee Klay for Federal Sign in 1964 and won that year’s General Electric trophy for neon sign design. Standing 180 feet tall, it was the largest electric sign in the world. The pylon’s height required maintenance workers to use a small elevator tucked inside one of the support legs to reach the top.

Dunes pylon sign, UNLV Digital Collections, Culinary Workers Union Local 226 collection

UNLV Digital Collections, Culinary Workers Union Local 226 collection 

The sign was destroyed in 1993 as part of a spectacular implosion that leveled the Dunes to make way for the Bellagio. A smaller, similarly shaped Dunes sign can be seen at The Neon Museum. 

Dunes sign in Neon Museum Boneyard

Dunes sign in Neon Museum Main Collection

The Sands

Slide of the Sands Hotel sign, Las Vegas, circa 1950s-1960s

Slide of the Sands Hotel sign, Las Vegas, circa 1950s-1960s, UNLV Digital Collections 

In 1952, the Sands Hotel set a new standard for sign size and design along the Las Vegas Strip. As much architecture as it was signage, the 56-foot-tall display featured the hotel name in script neon letters against a rectangular grid, all dramatically cantilevered from a single pylon. The design has been attributed alternatively to architect Wayne McAllister and YESCO sign designer Hermon Boernge. Frank Sinatra and other members of the “Rat Pack” famously posed for photographs in front of the sign.

Slide of the Sands Hotel sign, Las Vegas, circa 1950s-1960s

Slide of the Sands Hotel sign, Las Vegas, circa 1950s-1960s, UNLV Digital Collections 

The original was replaced during new construction in the 1960s. The Sands sign was one of the inspirations for the Neon Boneyard Park sign on The Neon Museum campus, which was designed by Brian “Buzz” Leming.

Neon Boneyard Park sign

Neon Boneyard Park 

The Thunderbird

Photograph of the entrance to the Thunderbird Hotel (Las Vegas), circa early 1950s

Thunderbird Hotel entrance, circa 1950s, UNLV Digital Collections 

The Thunderbird opened in 1948 as the fourth resort on the Las Vegas Strip. Graham Neon Sign Company created two stylized neon birds for the Western/Native American themed property.

Photograph of the neon sign of the Thunderbird Hotel (Las Vegas), 1948

Thunderbird Hotel signage, 1948, UNLV Digital Collections 

In the 1960s, the exterior of the hotel was remodeled and one of the birds was incorporated into a new marquee pylon sign designed by Bill Clarke of AD-ART. The last of the birds departed in 1977 when Major Riddle rebranded the hotel as the Silverbird. 

Slide of the Thunderbird Hotel, Las Vegas, circa 1960s

Thunderbird Hotel, circa 1960s, UNLV Digital Collections  

From 1982 to 1992, the property was called the El Rancho (not to be confused with the original El Rancho which operated at a different Strip location from 1941 to 1960). Today, it is the proposed site of the Drew Las Vegas. A smaller replica of the 1948 neon bird sign now adorns the new Thunderbird Hotel, a boutique property located north of the Strip. 

Thunderbird marquee pylon sign, September 1970. Vintage Las Vegas

Thunderbird marquee pylon sign, September 1970,

In the coming months, we will be writing more about lost and maybe not-so-lost signs. Do you have any favorites that you wish were still standing? Let us know and we might include them in a future post.

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