Las Vegas Guardian Angel Cathedral
Built in 1963, the Guardian Angel Cathedral’s exterior has a geometric flare with its main A-frame and diamond design around the front doors.

Think you know Vegas? Our Modernist architecture guide Ken MacIntyre explores a surprising building you may not know.

Guardian Angel Cathedral

The marvelous modernist excesses of Las Vegas in the 1950s, 60s and 70s were built on the hopes and dreams of architects, designers, entertainers, mobsters and even the Catholic Church.

Guardian Angel Cathedral a-frame windows
A-frames abound, making a dramatic impression from the outside. Inside, this allows space for a likewise dramatic canvas for the stained glass windows depicting the 12 stations of the cross as well as the ability to seat 1,100.

Today, though, much of Sin City’s midcentury iconography is disappearing at an alarming rate, so it’s with great pleasure we can still draw your attention to Paul Revere Williams’ Guardian Angel Cathedral located right off Las Vegas Blvd at 302 Cathedral Way.

Built on land donated by “Mr. Las Vegas,” Moe Dalitz—in a bid to improve his Mob-centric image, no doubt—pioneering modernist architect Paul R. Williams was enlisted by the Catholic Church to design the Guardian Angel Shrine in 1963.

Raising the stakes on your typical midcentury church A-frame, Williams’ exaggerated Googie-like design did not go unnoticed and raised a few eyebrows at the time… even by The Strip’s standards.

Isabel and Edith Piczek mural "Final Creation"
The stained glass windows and sanctuary mural inside are what the artists Isabel and Edith Piczek call “Mystical Realism.” The mural is entitled “Final Creation.”

Twelve smaller A-frames bisect the larger structure with stained glass windows—by artists Isabel and Edith Piczek—depicting…you guessed it, gambling themes! A bold colorful mosaic is visible above the structure’s main entrance and still generates attention from neighboring visitors walking past on their way to or from The Encore Hotel & Casino to the South.

While Moe Dalitz would go on to help shape modern Las Vegas, California architect Paul R. Williams would leave his own mark on Las Vegas with additional projects like the La Concha Motel, the Moulin Rouge Hotel & Casino (RIP) and the historic Berkley Square neighborhood.

 

Ken MacIntyre is the creator and curator of Modtraveler.net, an Enthusiast’s Guide to Modernism. For more photos and stories of modernist destinations visit his website or follow Ken on Instagram @modtraveler.