For the last seven years, the Neon Museum of Las Vegas has been little more than an outdoor storage lot for the iconic signs that once adorned casinos and hotels along the Strip. The non-profit organisation offers tours of this two-acre “Neon Boneyard”, where more than 150 signs dating back to the 1930s are collected and preserved, but it’s never had a building to call its own -- until now.
On 26 October, the museum will open the doors to a new visitor’s centre in the Neon Boneyard -- an event 15 years in the making.
“Given the nature of the collection… it was essential to have a building to anchor the experience,” said Danielle Kelly, the Neon Museum’s executive director. “It gives the collection and the project as a whole a sense of permanence and stability.”
The visitor’s centre has been built from the remains of the historic La Concha hotel, designed in 1961 by famed African-American architect Paul Revere Williams. Though the hotel was demolished in 2004, the lobby of the hotel remained in its original location at 2955 Las Vegas Boulevard South until 2006, when it was disassembled and moved to the Neon Boneyard at a cost of $600,000. On 12 May, construction crews broke ground on the $2.8 million visitor’s centre, reassembling and restoring the 1,200sqft, 28ft-tall La Concha lobby to its 1960s appearance.
“The plan for a visitor centre has been in the works for over a decade,” Kelly explained. “The opportunity to preserve the La Concha lobby seemed the perfect set of circumstances to realise that dream.” The centre will serve as a museum space with electronic interactive exhibits, ticket counter sales and a gift shop.
While nearly 40 million people visit Las Vegas each year, fewer than 15,000 take the Boneyard tour, making it a relatively minor attraction in Vegas. But beginning 27 October, the museum expects to receive as many as 400 visitors each day, with 60,000 people expected to take the tour in 2013 – an increase that should mean good things for the funding needed to protect these beautiful pieces of history. “[Neon’s] visual association to the city is essential to Las Vegas' identity,” Kelly said. “Preservation of the signs is the preservation of the glowing heart of Las Vegas.”
The 45-minute tours of the Boneyard previously offered by the museum will continue, but with an increased frequency. Tours will be available every half hour from 10 am to 4 pm Monday through Saturday at a cost of $18 per adult or $12 for Nevada residents, students, seniors and veterans. Advance reservations are recommended as the tours are expected to sell out. The visitor’s centre is accessible without booking a tour.