The Landmark Hotel and Casino had a history even before it opened its door. Construction began in 1961; developer Frank Carroll managed to build the Landmark Plaza shopping center, but ran out of money about three-quarters of the way to finishing the hotel and casino. (Fontainebleau, you are not alone!) In 1966, Carroll secured a loan from the Teamsters Union Pension Fund and completed construction, but didn’t open it due to the lack of a gaming license.
Enter Howard Hughes, who wanted to add another casino to the five he already owned. In 1968, Hughes bought the Landmark, paid off the creditors and oversaw the building’s completion—it was the only casino he didn’t buy ready-made, so he was involved in everything from the width of the beds to the uniforms on the bellhops.
The 525-room hotel opened on July 1, 1969, with Danny Thomas headlining the big room. The ground floor featured a marble lobby leading to shops (including the pharmacy where Elvis ran up a half-million-dollar bill) and a gaming floor, with a pool and waterfall outside. Landmark’s distinctive dome top was three stories high, housing the Mandarin Chinese restaurant and the Towers, which specialized in steak and seafood, along with a lounge and gaming floor. The top level held the Sky Bar, a swank nightclub with a giant dance floor and a 360-degree view of the Vegas Valley.
However, the Landmark’s moment in the sun was short-lived: On July 2, 1969, Kirk Kerkorian opened the 1,512-room International Hotel directly across the street, stealing the Landmark’s thunder but good. Hughes soon lost interest in the casino—in all of his casinos—and eventually sold it in the late 1970s. The property floundered through the next decade, eventually closing in 1990. Five years later, it went out with a bang: The Landmark’s implosion was featured in the movie Mars Attacks!
The site of the Landmark is now a parking lot for the Las Vegas Convention Center, although one piece remains: The Neon Museum restored one of the casino’s signs and installed it on site—a gold and blue cursive sign glittering as shuttle buses full of conventioneers roll past.