Throwback Thursday

We like the idea of Throwback Thursday, so we wanted to include a slideshow of Las Vegas back in the day! (Doesn't every day feels like Throwback Thursday when exploring our site!)

 

We hope you will share your memories of these places and what they may have meant to you!

 

Special thanks to Mike Pinjuv for the Pinjuv Richfield photo and Special Thanks to Joel Rosales of LostandFoundVegas,com (formerly leavingLV.net) for the Candlelight Wedding Chapel image.

"Lost" Vegas: The El Rancho Vegas

Like all good "Lost" Vegas stories, this one begins with a myth:

For decades, the story has been that hotelier Tommy Hull's car broke down on the old LA Highway (Highway 91) near San Francisco Avenue (now Sahara Avenue).  It was a hot day with the sun beating down.  While waiting for a tow truck, Hull counted the cars that drove by and envisioned  a swimming pool that fronted on the highway and would invite weary, sweaty travelers to stop at his hotel. 

It's a good story but it's a myth.
 
Tommy Hull was friends with civic booster extraordinare, Big Jim Cashman.  Hull had a chain of El Rancho hotels in California and he operated the  Roosevelt Hotel  in Hollywood.  Cashman worked hard to convince Hull that he should build one of his El Rancho Hotels in Las Vegas.  One night over drinks at the Hotel Apache, Hull finally agreed with Cashman.  It was 1939 and Las Vegas was a small town.  Downtown on Fremont Street (click here for our Brief History of Fremont Street) were a few gambling halls and hotels but nothing on the scale of the El Rancho.  Hull priced property in Las Vegas and then turned his eye to the County property on the other side of San Francisco Avenue.  The  property was owned by Mrs. Jessie Hunt and she thought it was worthless.  She had 33 acres that she was all but ready to give away  Wanting to get the most for his investment, Hull bought the property (and an additional 33 acres) at a cost of $150 per acre- oh those were the days- on the southwest corner of San Francisco Avenue and Highway 91.

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Lost Vegas: We remember Foxy's

Legend has it that half the business deals in Las Vegas were done on Foxy's Deli napkins and a handshake during the late 1950s.

While that may be hard to understand today when looking at Las Vegas, back in the day it made perfect sense to almost everyone.

Foxy's Deli is one of those places that was vital to our history but, like the others in our "Lost Vegas" series, it no longer is part of our everyday Las Vegas lives.

 

Foxy's courtesy of Abe Fox and As We Knew It

Foxy's courtesy of Abe Fox and As We Knew It

Abe Fox opened Foxy's Deli in 1955 on the corner of San Francisco (Today, Sahara Blvd) and Las Vegas Blvd South. He had a 30 year lease from the property owners, the American Legion. Across from the deli was the San Francisco Square, a small shopping center. Kitty corner from Foxy's was the El Rancho Hotel and across San Francisco stood the Sahara Hotel. According to family lore, Fox had been given a tip that the San Francisco Square Shopping Center was going to open and realized that more traffic would be generated by the center. Not knowing much deli food, Fox went to Los Angeles' Fairfax district, studied Cantor's deli and came back to Las Vegas with an idea of what he wanted to serve.

When he opened Foxy's Deli, it quickly became a celebrity hangout. It was the only deli in town and it was open 24 hours a day. Fox said in an interview we did with him in 2003, "I threw away the key.". Once a year, during the slow period between Christmas and New Year's Eve, they would close to paint the restaurant.

The white neon fox that advertised the deli was designed by Dick Porter from an idea that Fox had for a logo.

The deli quickly became a success. With its affordable prices and good food, celebrities from back east now had some place good to order corn beef sandwiches and Jewish entertainers now had some place where they could order kosher style food.

Fox hit upon advertising along the highway that led into Las Vegas and people still remember seeing billboards along the old L.A. Highway (today the 15 freeway) reminding them that they were getting closer and closer to having a meal at Foxy's. He bought advertising on taxi cabs and on the radio.

Luckily for Abe, his food was as good as he claimed in the advertising. It was a meeting place not only for celebrities like Shecky Greene but men like Moe Dalitz as well as the movers and shakers of Las Vegas politics and real estate.

Liberace, who played the Riviera, often came in with his mother who loved the stuffed cabbage, Ann-Margaret and her husband, Roger Smith were big fans of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Louis Prima and Sam Butera often came over for breakfast after bringing the house down nightly in the Sahara's Casbah lounge,

When Nate King Cole began performing at the Sands he was unable to eat in the hotel, so Jack Entratter arranged for a trailer to be set up in the parking lot where Cole could relax between the dinner show and the late show. Abe Fox would deliver food to Cole's trailer.

When the color line was finally broken for good, the Mills Brothers became good customers.

But, Shecky Greene may have been one of Fox's favorite customers. "He was a maniac" Abe remembered, but they became very good friends. Others who frequented the deli include Betty Grable (her husband Harry James was often booked at the El Rancho Vegas across the street). Grable would go to the beauty salon next door and then come into Foxy's afterwards, preferring a booth in the back, where rumor has it, she used to bet the ponies.

Blackie Hunt and Sonny King were regulars. Singer/Songwriter Paul Williams has said he wrote the songs for the film, "Bugsy Malone"  sitting in a booth at Foxy's, drinking coffee for a week.

As the Strip began to change, (Fox pegged the change to Howard Hughes coming to town and the old guard selling out to the corportations), Fox saw the writing on the wall. Gone were the days when Las Vegas was just a small town where everybody knew one another. Performers were aging and his customer base was as well.

He sold Foxy's in 1975 and went into land speculation and real estate. He had quietly been buying land since the late 1950s.

Foxy's Firehouse opened where Foxy's Deli had once been. A small casino with gaming it lasted a few years.

Foxy's Firehouse courtesy of The Chip Guide

Foxy's Firehouse courtesy of The Chip Guide

 

After that, it became the Holy Cow Brewery, the first microbrewery in Las Vegas. It was owned by Tom Wiesner's Big Dog Hospitality Group. The Holy Cow stayed in business until 2002, when it closed in the aftermath of tourism slowdown attributed to the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

The Holy Cow Brewery

The Holy Cow Brewery


After that, Ivana Trump painted the building black and pink and advertised that she was going to build a condo tower that would be better than Donald Trump's not too far up the road. But, the economic meltdown in 2007-2008 put the brakes on that.

Today, the corner sits vacant. Some of us like to think Abe Fox put a curse on it.

Here's to Foxy's Deli and all the wonderful history!

Please share your memories of Foxy's Deli with us!

 






Introducing a New Feature: Lost Vegas

Welcome to a new feature of the Classic Las Vegas Blog: Lost Vegas.

This is where we will share our history, stories, memories and imagery of Las Vegas places no longer there, of places that live on fondly in our memories for what they once meant to us before Las Vegas became a metropolis with an eye firmly focused on the future and not always eager to embrace its past.

Today, we look at that wonderful restaurant The Green Shack, where many generations of Las Vegans enjoyed a fried chicken dinner surrounded by their friends and neighbors.

"Jimmie" Jones and friend outside the Colorado Restaurant before it became the Green Shack.

"Jimmie" Jones and friend outside the Colorado Restaurant before it became the Green Shack.

In 1928, the newly widowed Mattie Jones landed in the small town of Las Vegas.  On New Year's Eve, so the story goes (and beloved buildings in Lost Vegas always have good stories), Mattie (who liked to be called Jimmie) opened the Colorado Restaurant. The restaurant was located in her two room home on a stretch of road that was soon to become Boulder Highway. The Colorado, pictured above, was across the road from where the Green Shack would be built. From a window, she sold orders of fried chicken and bootleg whiskey.

Though the Colorado was considered the far end of town along a dirt road that ultimately led down to the Colorado River (if you were up for making that long trek), Jimmie Jones did a good business. She was not the only establishment selling bootleg whiskey on the outskirts of town but her customers mainly came back for the fried chicken, which they washed down with their bootleg hooch.

In August, 1931, the paving of the dirt highway was completed  in anticipation of the construction of Boulder Dam. With more traffic on the highway, business boomed for Jimmie Jones and the Colorado. Sometime between 1930 and the end of 1931, Jimmie Jones bought an old green, barracks style building from either the Union Pacific Railroad (according to her family) or the Land and Water Company (other reports) and had the building moved out to Boulder Highway but just inside the city limits, not far from the Colorado.

Soon after she closed the Colorado and opened the sit down restaurant and bar that would become a part of Las Vegas history the Green Shack.

The Green Shack originally  

The Green Shack originally

 

With the repeal of prohibition in 1933, the Green Shack began selling liquor legally. Thanks to the dam workers and the repeal of Prohibition, business boomed and Jones and her new nephew,  Frank McCormick, was asked to handle the bar. Family lore has it that Jimmie Jones received the first Liquor license after the repeal of Prohibition.


Jimmie Jones and her girls, the waitresses of the Green Shack

Jimmie Jones and her girls, the waitresses of the Green Shack

Jimmie Jones knew how to cook and the menu of the Green Shack expanded. It became popular with families. Many of the waitresses married local boys and became part of the community. The warmth of the place  with its large chairs and fireplaces made many feel right at home and the staff and Jones were well known throughout the community. For a community that prided itself on its western roots, the Shack fit right in.

 

Interior of the Green Shack  

Interior of the Green Shack

 

There was a hitching post where riders could tie up their horses, come in for a drink or food and know that their horse would still be there when they came out.

In the lounge/bar area, there were small gaming tables and a spirited lounge act offering entertainment.

Western star, Hoot Gibson, who owned a divorcee ranch on the other side of town was a frequent visitor.


The Green Shack Christmas card

The Green Shack Christmas card


The Green Shack celebrates Helldorado

The Green Shack celebrates Helldorado

The Green Shack staff participated in Helldorado, the annual western celebration that transformed Las Vegas into an old western town each May, often pulling a wagon filled with the waitresses waving to the crowd.

The Green Shack in a Helldorado parade  

The Green Shack in a Helldorado parade

 

A favorite hang-out of city politicians as well as the working man, the Shack. Members of the legal fraternity that frequented the Shack include a one who became Lt. Governor, another who became a Nevada Supreme Court Justice, and one became the U.S. Attorney for Nevada during the crack down on the mob in the late 1970s/early 1980s.


The Green Shack as many of us remember it.

The Green Shack as many of us remember it.

Jimmie Jones hired a friend and continued to do most of the cooking until her death in 1967. Her nephew, Frank McCormick, died three months after her. Frank's wife, Elaine, took over managing the business.

Between 1980 and 1985, the business was sold, reclaimed, leased, reclaimed and then closed. In 1985, James McCormick, son of Frank and Elaine, opened the restaurant back up. Old-time Las Vegans who remembered the Shack fondly returned to help keep the business going.

But, it was not enough. Las Vegas was no longer the small town it had been and downtown Las Vegas and Fremont Street were no longer the center of town. Drivers now could take the freeway to Henderson or the Dam and didn't need to travel along Boulder Highway.

The Shack closed for good in 1999. The green barracks building that had been such a staple of Las Vegas life was boarded up and got caught in a struggle between preservationists and the economic development. 

According to an article in the Las Vegas Mercury (an alt weekly, that like the Shack is no longer with us,), Hector Sedano wanted to raze the structure to build a wedding and banquet hall that would cater to the Hispanic community. But historic preservation officials felt he was jumping the gun; they wanted to see the building, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994, at least incorporated into the new business.

Votes didn't go their way and the Shack ultimately had a date with bulldozer and was torn down.

The Green Shack in 2000

The Green Shack in 2000

Luckily, its iconic neon sign found a home at the Neon Museum:

 

The Green Shack sign advertising what it was famous for: Cocktails and Chicken

The Green Shack sign advertising what it was famous for: Cocktails and Chicken

Photos courtesy of James and Barbara McCormick, Classic Las Vegas Collection and As We Knew It.

References: http://www.lasvegasnevada.gov/files/GreenShacknom.pdf

Hit the comments and share with us your memories of the Green Shack!

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