A Spanish estate in a Western town with a Spanish name seems reasonable. And there was indeed an estate there—an expansive gambling estate known as the Hacienda Resort Hotel & Casino. During its early construction phase, the project was named “Lady Luck,” but, as was the case with several other casinos here, financing (and ownership) changed during construction. So did the name, which left “Lady Luck” available for Andrew Tompkins to rechristen his newly acquired Downtown property Honest John’s (now known as the Downtown Grand).
The sprawling, low-slung Hacienda was open from 1956-1996 on the south Strip spot where Mandalay Bay (1999) now stands. In its early years, the Hacienda was far removed from other Strip development, and therefore closer to McCarran International Airport than any other casino. That proximity explains why the resort was bold enough to fly its own airline, a junket service consisting of small white planes emblazoned with the resort’s name in its recognizable Western-style font.
Obviously, many of our streets were named after casinos. Less obvious is that some of them were rechristened after gambling execs petitioned city officials to recognize their occupying resorts. Setting the standard of almost always erring on the side of positive PR, those city officials honored those petitions. With the help of Clark County Museum Administrator Mark Hall-Patton, I found those renamed streets include Tropicana (formerly Bond Road), Flamingo (Monson Road), Sahara (San Francisco Street), Circus Circus (Keno Drive) and Riviera (Racetrack Road). (Desert Inn and Hacienda were originally unnamed access roads and did not require renaming.) This free advertising worked out beautifully for the namesake casinos, but it was costly to other businesses along the renamed roads. In November 1962, former Las Vegas Sun publisher Hank Greenspun penned a sarcastic editorial regarding the renaming phenomenon; it’s available through the Sun’s online archives and worth a read for its historical context.
Also of historical note: You can still see the Hacienda’s iconic “horse and rider” sign. It has been restored and repositioned on Las Vegas Boulevard near Fremont Street as part of the Neon Museum’s collection. It serves as a gorgeous, twinkling reminder of both our city’s role in elevating nighttime signage to art form and the authentic cowboy roots of our once tiny desert outpost. Oh, and if you pass by and notice any of those twinkly incandescent bulbs are burned out, contact the City of Las Vegas, not the Neon Museum.