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Turning Back The Clock: Stardust

February 8, 2012 at 4:14 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 continue a monthly series on shuttered (but not forgotten) Las Vegas hotels and casinos. We hope you enjoy the stroll down memory lane.

The Stardust was the brainchild of Tony Cornero in 1954. He envisioned a Las Vegas resort that, unlike the Flamingo and Desert Inn, could appeal to the masses, not just high rollers. His design would be a property that would take up 40 acres, accommodate meeting space for 25-100 people, have 1,000 rooms and feature Las Vegas’ largest casino.

To get funding, Cornero began to sell stock in the project. He quickly went over the allowed 50 stockholders by the Nevada Gaming Commission. Also due to his rough past, they repeatedly told him that he would struggle to get a license. He ended up removing his name from the majority ownership group and gaming license application.

It wouldn’t matter, however. In July 1955, Cornero suffered a heart attack while gambling at the Desert Inn. The Stardust would sit unfinished until purchased by a group headed by Moe Dalitz. Construction immediately resumed and Stardust opened on July 2, 1958 at a cost of $10 million and with 1,065 rooms.

By September 1958, Moe Dalitz had taken over full ownership of the resort and already began thinking about expansion. In late 1958, the Stardust took over its neighbor, the Royal Nevada, which had been closed for some time. It was incorporated into the Stardust as its convention center and brought the total room count up to 1,300.

In 1960, further expansion was undertaken to better connect the two properties. A large archway was erected and a Polynesian-themed restaurant, Aku Aku, was opened in the space between the properties. The gap between them was further closed in 1964 with the completion of a nine-story hotel tower which brought the room count to 1,470.

In 1965, the famous Stardust Atomic Sign was erected which, at the time, was the largest free-standing sign in the city. Shortly thereafter, Howard Hughes tried to buy the Stardust, but was turned down by the Gaming Council fearing he would be in violation of anti-trust laws. In 1974, the Stardust was purchased by Argent Corporation, headed by Alan Glick.

Alan Glick received the loan to buy the resort from the Teamsters fund, who, backed by the Chicago Mob, immediately placed Frank Rosenthal, a member, in charge of operations. Frank would continuously change job titles to avoid having to get a gaming license. In 1975, as part of a $2 million remodel, the Stardust was the first resort to open a sports book inside the casino.

By 1976, the Nevada Gaming Council had caught up with Frank Rosenthal who was forced to take a non-gaming related position with the hotel. By 1977, the Chicago Mob had tired of Glick and forced him to sell the property to a mob-controlled group. After surviving a murder attempt, Frank Rosenthal left Las Vegas and the Gaming Commission began to come down on the Stardust for skimming money to the mob.

In 1984, the city asked the Boyd family to take over operation of the Stardust. By 1985, the Boyds had purchased the property outright and, in 1988, began a project to remodel and expand it. By 1991, a 32-story tower had opened and the atomic theme had been dropped for a simplified font.

In 2005, the Harrah's corporation purchased the motel next to Stardust, the Westward Ho, and traded the property to Boyd Corporation for Barbary Coast. Boyd, now having gained more land, decided that he would close and implode the Stardust to create Echelon, a new luxury property. The Stardust closed on November 1, 2006 and was imploded on March 13, 2007.

Construction began on Echelon in 2007 but, by the end of the year, was halted due to the worsening economy. To this date, construction has not resumed and Boyd has not announced any new plans for the site. The Stardust tower was only 17 years old at the time of its demolition.

(PHOTO/VIDEO: Vintage Vegas on Flickr, LazyDork.com on YouTube)

Archived Comments:

Well done, as usual

I've enjoyed all the entries in this series, especially this one. The Stardust was the first place I ever stayed in Vegas, and I still miss "her" each time I'm there. It's always so sad to see the current blight of the Stardust site- methinks even Boyd would rather have her back, making some money, than the current plot of dust and concrete bringing in no money!

From Paula F. on Facebook

"I have been there several times when I was a child!!!!!"

From Christene W. on Facebook

"Way more glamourous than those Kerkorian props."

Love these!

My fave series, great work DG!

Soo sad

The echelon is a wasteland now. Is the original Stardust still around anywhere? The one with the planet rings?

Great job!

I started visiting LV in the 90's. It was one of the first hotels I stayed at on the strip.
Here are the things I remember about the Stardust:
-How much better the tower rooms were than the "garden" rooms- a nicer name for the motor inn in back of the hotel.
-I won 2 jackpots in the Stardust casino. One was on a .50 slot for $800 and the other was on a $1 machine for $800 (sep. trips).
-Almost got run over by one of the valet parkers. Always seemed like there was a big traffic jam at valet parking.
-You could catch a coach bus to Sam's Town at the side entrance.
-The Stardust filled the spot nicely between the Frontier and the Westward Ho.