The Peppermill. Photo by Jon Estrada.

Back to the Present

Las Vegas changes so quickly. What places would the Native stash away in a time capsule for the future?

Over the years, lamenting the loss of old Vegas haunts—and celebrating those that remain—has been an occasional subject for this column (and its readers). There’s a certain sadness that comes with long-haul living in a largely disposable frontier city. But that sense of loss can be offset by an exhilarating freedom rarely understood in more established locales where tradition trumps reinvention.

Sure, local attitudes about preservation are shifting as the city matures and more adaptive re-use of old buildings (even casinos) takes hold. But let’s not kid ourselves: Without formal protections, everything is susceptible to disappearing overnight, for better or worse.

So what places would I like to see still kicking if I were to hop into a time machine and emerge in 2067? My goal wouldn’t be to create museums, but rather living links to Vegas’ past. An obvious category would include restaurants like the Bootlegger Bistro and Piero’s Italian Cuisine, two joints where that old black magic still swings. But I’d give my nod to the Peppermill, which holds court in its original location and has always found a way to stay relevant to younger audiences. As the north Strip redevelops, the Peppermill’s prime location will be ripe for repurposing and, therefore, into the capsule it goes.

Jon Estrada

Staying on the Strip, where my favorite casinos have been imploded or reinvented beyond recognition, Caesars Palace has aggressively adapted for 50 years, helping usher in new eras of dining (Spago) and shopping (The Forum Shops at Caesars) that changed Las Vegas. Still, I would hate to see its iconic porte cochere and row of fountains wiped away for yet another shopping mall. In light of a recent Caesars Entertainment report on “underdeveloped” company properties that ominously referred to eight acres fronting Caesars Palace, it too gets dropped into the capsule.

In recent years, Downtown has seen significant reinvention, but if, in 50 years, the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian mall is gone and the classic vibe of El Cortez remains in all its glory, I’ll be one happy Las Vegan. Ditto for the Springs Preserve, which is one of our first attempts at big-city thinking about history and open spaces. As time passes, the Preserve might become our Central Park or Balboa Park, as some initially envisioned it.

And finally, in 2067, the Double Down Saloon (and its carpet) will be 75 years old. By then, it will have morphed into our punk rock version of San Franciso’s legendary Vesuvio, and people will drop in for a taste of what Vegas was like back when gambling was king, people smoked (indoors!) and Frank Sinatra shared a jukebox with the Cramps. Ah, the good old days!

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