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Turning Back the Clock: The Dunes

October 12, 2011 at 2:47 PM | by | ()

We love Las Vegas and part of that is loving Las Vegas’ history. So while we enjoy telling you what we love about Vegas and keeping you up-to-date on what's going on, we would like to take some time to look back at Vegas past. Today, we launch the first part of a monthly series on shuttered (but not forgotten) Las Vegas hotels and casinos. We hope you enjoy the stroll down memory lane.

The Dunes was opened as a low rise hotel and casino in 1955 as the southernmost property on what was then US 91, now Las Vegas Boulevard. It opened as the ‘Miracle of the Desert’ and was one of the more luxurious properties on The Strip. Its location ended up causing financial problems, which would end up becoming a recurring theme for the property.

The Diamond of the Dunes tower was added in 1961 and around the same time the famous Dunes marquee was erected. The Dunes featured a full 18-hole golf course and was the first hotel and resort to offer a topless show. In 1979, they built the South tower, bringing the total rooms at Dunes up to 1300.

The famous Dunes sultan (pictured way above) sat out front until 1964. It was then relegated to the golf course where it burned down in 1985. In 1987, a Japanese businessman bought the property for $155 million dollars, but failed to find a way to keep the property afloat. In 1992, Steve Wynn purchased the Dunes, with plans to demolish the resort.

On October 20, 1993, the Dunes was imploded with great fanfare, on the same night the Treasure Island (also a Wynn property back then) opened. In true Vegas form, the demolition was turned into an opening event for Treasure Island whereby the pirate ship’s cannons “fired off” the shot that exploded the famous Dunes marquee. From there, the building was set on fire and imploded. The video is below (implosion starts around 2:45).

Today, Bellagio sits on the former site of Dunes. It certainly appears that the land that the Dunes' casino and its North Tower stood on is now taken up by the Bellagio lake. When MGM purchased Mirage Resorts from Steve Wynn, they received with it a large parcel of land that had been the Dunes golf course. On that land now sits part of CityCenter, specifically Aria and Vdara.

The Dunes lives on in pictures, movies, people’s memories, and the street that bears its name, but in the end it gave way to make room for a resort that is potentially even more iconic for Las Vegas. In many ways, the Dunes implosion began the trend across Las Vegas to implode the old and build anew. We look forward to telling the story of many of the others like Sands, Desert Inn, and Hacienda, in the coming weeks.

(Photos: Dominic's Pics and Vintage Vegas on Flickr, EarlyVegas.com)

Archived Comments:

Great read (and watch)

I eat this stuff up.  Thanks so much!

Great Article

Keep them coming! I love reading about the old casinos that I missed staying in, I always said next will stay there.( I never did)

this is really great!

Definetly keep these coming!!

This is so cool

I love this. It's like tracing your family tree and learning your great great great grandfather was a millionaire who lost his fortune on booze, women and a ridiculous invention idea. Can't wait for the next history lesson! Also I'm gonna pour out a little liquor for the Sultan. RIP.

This is a great history lesson..

I started visiting LV regularly in the mid 90's. It seemed like each trip there was a hotel closing such as the Sands, Hacienda and the Desert Inn. Places I always wanted to stay but did not for one reason or another and now they are gone.
The hotel I am really sorry I missed out on is the Landmark. Funky building, Howard Hughes....doesn't get much better than that!

Great Segment

Love the nostalgic history lesson. Don't stop!

I remember...

the implosion. Crazy how it seems like just yesterday.

missed nothing: Landmark nostalgia.

To girlygirl:

The Landmark hotel was originally a tower to "compliment" an adjoining apartment complex.  The story goes when HH bought it the influence of the Seattle World's Fair (1961?) Space Needle was duplicated on what was to be a rather dull 20 - 25 floor addition to the nearby apartments.  Suddenly the Landmark was born.

I worked there as a front desk clerk for six months or so in 1979 when its decline was already in full swing.  Sell-outs during convention season only.  20 - 30% occupancy was a good night. Very few guests had a "good night."  Only a dozen or so rooms and suites enjoyed modern renovations.  Honestly, they were not bad; located on the highest guest rooms in the tower that had a nice view. The rest of the property was dirty and unkempt.  The food; both the buffet and coffee shop was "dangerous." Management/employee relations were amongst the worst in Las Vegas.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Unless the novelty of being the tallest building in Las Vegas in 1962 was of some special importance -- girlygirl -- believe me you missed nothing, nothing at all.  I'm fairly certain they closed the "apartment" section in the early 80's and by 1992, 1993 it was only a matter of time.  The IMPLOSION (1997?) was accomplished in the middle of the night.  You could hear the cockroaches running for the hills.

The sea shell

I remember going to one the restaurants at the dunes in the 1980's plus. There was a woman playing a harp sitting in a moving sea shell. The shell was floating in water and was moving in a slow "t" shape. That was the best effect in a restaurant ever!