When we think of classic, retro Rat Pack Las Vegas, we think of a life lived on gaming floors and showroom stages. Yet some of the most swingin’-est events held in the most sensational settings happened at home. And many of those homes were located in Paradise Palms, a neighborhood of mid-century residences near Downtown that has become increasingly celebrated as both a historical site and a primer on mid-mod style.
The Paradise Palms neighborhood—the first planned community in Clark County—was built in the early 1960s by developer Irwin Molasky, surrounding what was then the Stardust Country Club (now the Las Vegas National Golf Course). The bulk of the buildings are by renowned architects William Krisel and Dan Palmer, who had worked with California’s Alexander Construction Company at about the same time designing thousands of homes in Southern California, most notably in Palm Springs.
Photos by Ginger Bruner
An array of angular houses on curving streets, Paradise Palms remains one of the best-preserved neighborhoods and a principal of mid-century style: patterned breeze blocks, textured concrete walls, expanses of plate glass, asymmetrical rooflines, patios and planters. Many feature bright exterior paint jobs in wild combinations—yellow/gray/aqua/periwinkle or red/blue/black/white—that pull passing eyes and play up exterior details. Some houses look like Frank Sinatra might live in them; others seem more like George Jetson might come rushing out the door at any moment, late for work.
Vivid as their aesthetics might be, neither Frank nor George actually resided in Paradise Palms, although dozens of other notable names have over the years. Famous past residents included Johnny Carson, Phyllis Diller, Shecky Greene and Dionne Warwick. Sonny Liston and Debbie Reynolds lived in the same house, albeit not at the same time. As you can imagine, some seriously swinging parties have happened in Paradise Palms over the years—you can practically hear the cocktail shakers rattling, the laughter at a round of borderline-blue jokes, the splash of someone diving into the pool, possibly fully clothed.
Photos by Ginger Bruner
It’s this combination of architectural exceptionalism and name-dropping history that brought Paradise Palms its recent historic designation. In February, the Clark County Commission unanimously voted Paradise Palms as the first historic neighborhood in unincorporated Clark County, a reflection of the neighborhood’s importance to Las Vegas, but also to mid-century design’s increasing importance as a form of local identity and a draw for tourism. The Nevada Preservation Foundation held the third annual Home + Heritage weekend there, which included a cocktail party, among other successful events. In a recent New York Times article on Palm Springs, Stephen Drucker referred to design taking over from golf as the “engine of the economy of the desert.”
Ogling butterfly roofs and cut-out concrete may not take the place of blackjack or nightclubs for Las Vegas tourists, but it does put another choice on the menu. And, for locals, neighborhoods like Paradise Palms evoke memories of our past and inspire pride in the present.