Scenes from the Neon Boneyard
It’s not right to call it a graveyard. The entities now laying dormant in the lot at Las Vegas Blvd. N. and E. McWilliams Ave. were never really alive to begin with; while it’s true that they once moved and spoke, they had no consciousness in “life,” and they certainly don’t have any in death. Also, the owners of the lot prefer to call the lot a “boneyard,” not a “graveyard.” And furthermore, it’s going to come alive again this September.
The Neon Boneyard, in the heart of downtown Las Vegas, is set to reopen as The Neon Museum on September 1. What was once little more than a pile of discarded neon signs — many of them iconic pieces from Las Vegas’ early years, signs that you can’t quite believe are now out of commission — will become a living, dynamic museum of pop objects. You’ll enter through the restored lobby of the La Concha Motel, a classic Googie structure that was picked up and moved from its original spot on the Las Vegas Strip, and you’ll wander through a forest of enormous Sin City icons, including the former signs from Caesars Palace, Binion’s Horseshoe, the Stardust and many others. You may even see some of the signs in the process of being restored.
But that’s in September. The last time I saw the Neon Boneyard, in late December 2009, it was still a (artfully-arranged) mess of metal and glass behind chain-link and razor wire. You could book tours through the lot, but for some reason or another, in eleven years of living in Las Vegas, I never managed to do that. Instead, I took what I called “the self-guided tour” — simply shooting pictures of the signs through the fence.
The Landmark. It’s a shame they couldn’t save the entire Space Age-chic hotel, but the sign is better than nothing.
The Horseshoe, plus a gentleman playing snooker. Pip pip.
The caretakers of the yard like to have fun with these giant toys. Seriously, those “tiny” letters probably come up to your waist.
It’s little wonder that the signs of Las Vegas’ early years provide so much fodder for graphic designers. That Algiers lettering is absolutely one-of-a-kind.
In planned obsolescence, there are no sweethearts.
China Garden and Alpine Village Inn: I want to go to there.
Some of the signs are so far gone that I don’t know how they’ll ever be restored. That said, the preservationists of the Neon Museum have done wonders with less than this — and besides, some of these signs actually look better as ruins, in a strange, bittersweet and haunted way.