Nevada’s Clark County Museum – A Glimpse into Las Vegas’ Past

Neek sez:

The Clark County Museum in Las Vegas’ neighbor, Henderson, Nevada is definitely worth visiting.  This 30 acre complex houses an indoor and outdoor exhibit showing the history of Southern Nevada from prehistoric times to the present.

It chronicles the history and culture of the native people such as the Anasazi, Paiute and Mojave and how they were able to survive in such a harsh environment.  After exploring the indoor building, step back in time

and visit Heritage Street where there are outdoor exhibits of historically accurate relocated buildings.

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Beckley House 1912

The fantastically preserved residential homes are from the early 1900’s to the 1950’s where the interiors are fully furnished and decorated according to their time period.

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Interior and Exterior of a Spartanette Trailer from the 1950’s

A Spartanette  travel trailer in the driveway of one of the homes is ready to go on vacation.

There is even a wedding chapel that had married Bette Midler, Sir Michael Caine, Whoopi Goldberg and countless other celebrities when it was located on the Las Vegas strip.

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Interior of a 1930’s kitchen

On the other side of the complex, take a walk on the nature trail to explore the train depot and railway cars.  Further down the trail is a scale house and old mining equipment.  Don’t forget the ghost town trail where you’ll see the toll cabin, blacksmith shop, general store and jail all in arrested decay. Last of all is a re-creation of a Paiute village with its summer shelters.

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Old Mining Equipment

Walking through this entire museum will definitely help burn off the calories from eating all those Las Vegas Buffets.

Lex sez:

It’s easy to get blinded by the bright lights of Vegas, but sometimes to find the most fascinating parts of its history, you’ve got to get away from the Strip, away from downtown, and look around the outskirts to see the deeper story of this great city.  That was our experience heading out to Henderson, Nevada to see the Clark County Museum.  We first found out about the place through watching the TV show Pawn Stars, which would often feature a very wise man named Mark Hall-Patton appraising the validity of historical items brought into the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in downtown Las Vegas.  Finding out Hall-Patton is the curator of the Clark County Museum; Neek did some research and found out about their amazing exhibits.  We added that to our road trip itinerary with great curiosity.

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We arrived close to the opening, which was good as it was shaping up to be a hot day and there are only a limited number of parking spaces with a wood covering for shade.  After purchasing our tickets inside the Museum Entrance (an incredibly cheap $2!), we were advised by a very kind attendant to head over to Heritage Street first as there was a busload of school kids about to arrive any moment.  We actually saw the school bus pulling in as we walked outside and headed across the street.  Neek pointed toward a white building with a steeple and said we should start there.  This was the Candlelight Wedding Chapel.

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Wow!  There really is an amazing attention to detail that they took in restoring this beautiful chapel.  I was very entertained by the way they made it appear as though a wedding was in progress.  The clothes that had been donated to this exhibit were definitely authentic; there was even a wedding dress from 1939 on display in the rectory.  The feel inside the chapel, from the music playing to the look of the guests in attendance (all very expressive mannequins!), felt later in the 20th century.  Whichever decade it was, it certainly felt like a Vegas wedding!

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Interior of Print Shop Office 1900’s

Our amazement continued as we walked outside down Heritage Street.  It really did feel as though we were walking back in time.  The street was filled with houses that had been moved from their previous location and restored as close as possible to their original look.  Each house had a look unique to a specific decade of the 20th century, usually linked to when that particular house was built.  In addition to houses, Heritage Street also had a mobile home and a print shop.  My personal favorite on Heritage Street was the Goumond House.  While it was built in 1931, the interior was decorated to evoke the feeling of the Cold War in the late 50s-early 60s.  There were atomic bomb shelter supplies in the bedroom closet while the husband and wife enjoyed martinis in front of the TV in the family room.  Too retro!

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Artifacts collected by Anna Robert Parks

But there was an even further trip back in time just outside of Heritage Street.  The Ghost Town and Mining Trail took us back to the 19th century, giving us a real feel of the western roots of Las Vegas!  We walked around the trail, checking out wooden shacks and even an old jail cell.  But the 95 degree heat got to be a bit much!  We found sanctuary back at the Museum Entrance, where we took big gulps from the cold water fountain just inside.  Then we explored the Anna Robert Parks Exhibit Hall.  It was a wonderfully arranged place showing everything from the Ice Age to the Native Pueblo and Paiute culture up to the gambling accoutrements of Vegas from the 50s, 60s and 70s.  By the time we reached the end of the exhibits, it was almost time for them to close and time for Neek and I to move on to our next adventure.

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