Hitting Hoover? Boulder Move: Grab Onto Some Concrete History In The Town That Built It
Of all the places where you could grab onto your American Dream, you go and get yourself settled in the heart of the Mojave Desert working 120 degree days for five years straight? Yikes, we’d be thinking something’s wrong with your “picker.” But remember, coming here, no matter the conditions locked in guaranteed work. This was all during a time when we were on the heels of the Great Depression, and men were game to work through any conditions, so long as it meant bringing home that bacon. And you know what? If you can believe it, Hoover Dam was the very thing that transformed Vegas from its modest railroad depot beginnings to the mega-resort metropolis we all know and love to get wild in today. Just think—where would we be without all those Elvis photo ops, quick and dirty marriage ceremonies, and Fear and Loathing-inspired Strip shenanigans? Not any world I want to live in, and baby, we’ve got Hoover Dam to thank for that one.
A trip to Hoover Dam is one that anyone calling themselves a true Nevada adventurer has gotta tick off the list, and when doing yourself that favor, get serious about embracing the entire Neon to Nature road trip that skirts it. Because a ramble through Historic Boulder City couldn’t be more satisfyingly different than a visit to Vegas, especially when it means overnighting in a living piece of history built to accommodate the rich and famous drawn to the Dam in the 1930s. OH! And did we mention one of the best damn museums in Boulder City just so happens to be part of the whole schtick? Yep, it really IS that good. Read on for 30 reasons to drop into this world away for a day at Boulder City’s Historic District—this is one you ain’t gonna wanna miss. #NVMuseums
This saucy little historic district is only 30 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, guys.
Though there are many historic districts all over Nevada sure to FOMO-fy your feeds, Boulder City is different. It just so happens to be anchored by a modern marvel of the world…
… And thoughtfully master planned to house the thousands of workers building mighty Hoover Dam, which is just around the corner.
You see, this entire thing went gangbusters after the Stock Market crashed and The Great Depression drove thousands of people west, in search of employment.
Rumors of a mega-enormo concrete arch-gravity dam were swirling, and men flocked to the Mojave in hopes of scoring a job.
Before the dam project got off the ground, these families posted up along the Colorado River in tents waiting for work, forming a ramshackle community called Ragtown.
But then! Hoover Dam, or what was first called Boulder Dam, really became a thing with construction underway by 1931. By 1932, the project had more than 3,000 on payroll, and around 5,000 by 1934.
Ragtown, and other makeshift settlements in the scorching Mojave simply wouldn’t do another day… especially since workers were now earning regular paychecks. They needed a real-deal city that could serve the folks building Hoover Dam.
And Boulder City was created! Through carefully planned federal supervision, the town became created as a “model community” with a fully clean living environment.
Gambling, and other businesses encouraging temptations, was completely forbidden. What’s more impressive is this: all who wanted to open a business in town were screened for character and financial viability.
The entire project—the Dam, and now this very thoughtfully developed community built to house the workers—represented optimism during an otherwise dismal time for Americans.
Planning Boulder City harnessed the talents of renowned architect Saco Rienk De Boer, and the community became known as “Nevada’s Garden City”, thanks to wondrous public spaces and lush green landscapes that were thoughtfully incorporated.
… Cuz a lawn in the desert? Yeah, still a modern-day anomaly.
Like the Dam, they had uncanny perception the entire area would draw certainly draw the masses once the economy re-stabilized. The Dam had crazy-impressive Art Deco design elements, designed to stimulate the prospective visitor…
And so did Boulder City.
A grand hotel was built to welcome world dignitaries, celebrities like Shirley Temple and Howard Hughes, those in search of a quickie Nevada divorce, and regular people interested in seeing Hoover Dam with their own two eyes.
And you know what? The place, along with many other O.G. Boulder City businesses, still beckons visitors to this day… and has one of the best museums in town on the first floor.
We can do our best here to step you through this mind-melting history, but embrace this Travel Nevada Pro Tip straight from us to you: swinging through this world-class museum is just the ticket to understanding both the Dam, and Boulder City’s distinct worldly importance, guys.
Through a seriously impressive lineup of interactive exhibits, you can betcha bottom dollar you’ll be an ol’ pro by departure on what it took to clear the canyon and build the Dam…
Allll about salty lemonade and the crazy-dangerous working conditions these men endured in pre-OSHA conditions…
“The Man With The Iron Fist”…
Ragtown, and the type of people who lived, worked in, and made Boulder City the place it is today…
Stories about children growing up in Boulder City and the girl who fell into and tank of tar (and survived!)…
And how the Dam got its damn name.
A visit here is the best way to kick off your BC trip and get a true lay of the land…
So you can plot your attack on all these still-loved attractions. (Hint: the first air-conditioned attraction in town is one you won’t wanna miss)…
And maybe even rule the roost on your local trivia nights, too. We’re lookin’ at you, toilet paper man!
The Boulder City—Hoover Dam Museum is open, and yours for the perusin’ 7 days a week.
Oh, and did we mention admission is free to hotel guests?
…Yeah, you’re gonna wanna lock down that Shirley Temple suite toute suite, to fully bask in the delights of this truly incredible “Government Town”—turned historic district.