In Las Vegas, people are often so busy looking for a jackpot on the horizon that they don’t see the treasures right in front of them. Or, in the case of the Tropicana Las Vegas, over their heads.
Above the casino’s main gaming floor is a 4,000-square-foot stained glass ceiling, a composition of ochre and sepia, bevels and facets, mirrored glints and jewel tones. At one end, a group of Valkyrie nymphs with butterfly wings on their helmets gaze down at the blackjack tables with serene half-smiles—this is Vegas, so, while not entirely topless, they are, shall we say, rather loosely draped.
Remarkably, all this extravagance also had a practical purpose, which is hinted at by the many mirrors inset amongst the amber-tinted glass. Before cameras, those mirrors were how “the eye in the sky” kept watch on the gaming below—literally, rows of catwalks from which casino workers could look down on the roulette, poker and craps tables and make sure all play was on the up and up. From above, one can also see the shock absorbers built into the ceiling’s superstructure, cushioning the vibration of a giant building full of air conditioning, heating elevators and tens of thousands of people.
The ceiling was the centerpiece of a 1979 Art Nouveau redesign led by Tony DeVroude and cost $1 million to install, a fortune in the disco era. There have been rumors the ceiling would disappear—especially when the property was given its South Beach–style face-lift in 2011—but it never happened. How could you cover art with acoustic tile? Besides, who’s to say those Valkyrie nymphs don’t have a little Lady Luck in them?
Photos by Krystal Ramirez