Share

In part three of the Lost Signs of Las Vegas, we take a look at signs from smaller properties that longtime locals and frequent visitors might remember.

They take us back to the 1960s and 1970s, a time when even modest businesses used over-the-top advertisements. 

Orbit Inn

color photo of orbit inn motel in las vegas 1964 image credit charles phoenix

Orbit Inn, 1964, Charles Phoenix

The Orbit Inn launched on Fremont and 7th Streets in 1963. It was the home of not one but two Space Age signs. The first featured a rocket and a globe encircled by orbit trails. Author Tom Wolfe cited it as an example of Las Vegas’s unrestrained “Late American Rich” style. The rocket portion of the sign was replaced by a more functional “Motel” element in the 1960s.  

Postcard of Orbit Inn, Fremont & 7th, c. early 1970s

Orbit Inn, early 1970s, VintageLasVegas.com 

Sometime during the 1970s, the original sign was zapped by a flying saucer, which hovered over the property until the 1980s.    

Orbit Inn. Las Vegas, October 1979  Photo by Craig Gustafson: Fremont Street at 7th.

Orbit Inn, 1979, Craig Gustafson

Sadly, the motel is best remembered for a tragic explosion on the morning of January 7, 1967, when an Army deserter killed himself and five others by shooting a pistol into a stack of dynamite

1967 orbit inn explosion photo credit nevada state museum

Explosion at Orbit Inn, 1967, Nevada State Museum

Orbit Inn explosion 1967 by ken jones for las vegas sun

Explosion at Orbit Inn, 1967, Ken Jones, Las Vegas Sun

Former Sheriff Ralph Lamb noted, “That was a big thing when they blowed that Orbit Inn up, you know.” District Attorney George Franklin dryly observed, “A man doesn’t accidentally take 50 sticks of dynamite up to a motel room with him.” 

Explosion site at orbit inn 1967 ken jones las vegas sun

Explosion at Orbit Inn, 1967, Ken Jones, Las Vegas Sun

The Orbit Inn closed in 1987. Today, the site is the location of the Downtown Container Park.

Tower of Pizza

Tower of Pizza, Las Vegas Strip, May 1979 by Toon Michiels from American Neon Signs by Day & Night

Tower of Pizza, Las Vegas Strip, May, 1979, Toon Michiels, American Neon Signs by Day & Night

This Italian eatery impressed both Hollywood and the Ivy League. The tilted neon sign was designed by Ben Mitchem in 1964. The business was originally located near the intersection of Harmon and Las Vegas Boulevard, where City Center is today. The establishment’s reputation as a hangout for mobsters earned it a mention in the movie “Casino” as the thinly veiled Leaning Tower Restaurant.  Yale professors Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown had their own slant on the sign, featuring a photograph of it in their groundbreaking architectural study, “Learning from Las Vegas.”   

 Tower of Pizza, Las Vegas Strip, 1968 Las Vegas Studio: Images from the Archives of Robert Venturi & Denise Scott Brown

Tower of Pizza, Las Vegas Strip, 1968, Las Vegas Studio: Images from the Archives of Robert Venturi & Denise Scott Brown 

The restaurant moved to Henderson, Nevada in 1984. The sign was damaged and later scrapped in 1987. 

Slide of the Tower of Pizza, Nevada, 1986 

Tower of Pizza, Boulder Highway, Henderson, 1986, UNLV Digital Collections

 Steak Corral

The winking Steak Corral chef stood at the intersection of Charleston and Las Vegas Boulevards from 1966 until the mid-1970s.

Steak Corral, opening day, April 28, 1966 Las Vegas Review-Journal April 28, 1966

Steak Corral, opening day, April 28, 1966.  Las Vegas Review-Journal (April 28, 1966), p. 14

The site had been the location of Sill’s Drive-In Restaurant in the 1940s and 1950s (“Good food need not be expensive”) and then Tip Top before becoming Steak Corral.

Gateway Motel, Steak Corral, Las Vegas Blvd at Charleston, July 1967

Steak Corral, intersection of Charleston and Las Vegas Boulevards, July 1967.  The Gateway Motel and sign seen in the foreground remain at this location, VintageLasVegas.com

When it opened, the restaurant touted self-service, no tipping and a steak sandwich platter complete with baked potato, a “slab of Texas Toast,” and a green salad for $1.09. The location is currently a 7-Eleven convenience store. 

Steak Corral, Las Vegas, July 1968, 1100 S Las Vegas Blvd, SW corner of Charleston 

Steak Corral, July 1968, VintageLasVegas.com

Only one of the sign’s eyes was lit at night, transforming the friendly chef into a knife-wielding cyclops.

 Steak Corral, home movie, 1967

Steak Corral, home movie, 1967, 8mm film by Thomas Byrne’s dadVintageLasVegas.com 

Do you remember visiting the Orbit Inn, Tower of Pizza or Steak Corral? Share your memories with us on Facebook or Instagram

Join Our Mailing List

Stay updated on upcoming events, special offers, and more.