There’s no doubt about it: Las Vegas has a storied past. With roots in atomic bomb testing and organized crime, the city has come a long way over the last several decades. But despite the city’s reputation today as a gambling and entertainment mecca, it’s the city’s storied past that allowed Mid Century Modernism to thrive in the city’s housing communities. To understand how, let’s dive into the city’s history and a little neighborhood called Paradise Palms.
From Mod Mecca to Hollywood
Before the 1950’s, Las Vegas was a burgeoning city that hailed gambling as its main attraction. By the mid-1950’s, the city had grown so popular that it was no longer just a place to go gamble—it was a place for Hollywood’s elite to see and be seen.
With its proximity to Los Angeles, the mob-run casinos found a new way to attract customers and stand out from the pack: hiring talent. The bosses hired only the best and paid them accordingly. Marlene Dietrich, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis Jr. were a few of the notable Vegas performers at the time.
As the 1950’s came to a close, the city was evolving. The mob’s organized hold on the city was eventually edged out by Howard Hughes and other savvy businessmen, who shifted Las Vegas’s gambling background into a booming destination for gaming and entertainment of all kinds.
The Palmer-Krisel Connection
With tourism at an all-time high, there was an obvious need for housing. And while ad hoc and organic development was already in progress, real estate developer Irwin Molasky (and his company Paradise Homes) saw an opportunity to bring Las Vegas its very first master planned community.
As a developer, Molasky sought out successful SoCal architectural firm Palmer and Krisel Architects to bring its distinctive modern design to this newly planned neighborhood: Paradise Palms. The vast majority of this historic mid-century modern community was designed by this dynamic duo of Modernism. It was safe to say that Las Vegas’s elite found a new hot spot—not just to travel, but to live.
Paradise Palms: Las Vegas’s First Master-Planned Community
Paradise Palms is a historic community in the heart of Las Vegas proper, and it includes roughly 1000 homes that are situated on the Las Vegas National Golf Course (originally the Stardust Country Club). Some of the neighborhood’s notable residents throughout its 50-year history have included Dean Martin, Dinah Shore, Debbie Reynolds, Howard Hughes, and Bobby Darin. The golf course country club was also a popular hangout for the Rat Pack and other famous celebrities of the golden era of Las Vegas.
As Las Vegas grew, more and more communities cropped up throughout the city. Between the late 1970’s and the early 1990’s, Paradise Palms—once the hot and trendy place to live—was cast aside while people chose to move to the new cities like Henderson and Summerlin. In these new areas, they found larger, contemporary homes in suburban developments.
Mid Century Modernism and its design popularity have grown to a fever pitch throughout the past decade, and while this neighborhood might have been temporarily forgotten in favor of the uninspired utopian draw of suburbia, Paradise Palms is definitely having a moment. With more and more Gen X’ers and Millennials seeking out both modern living and affordable housing, Paradise Palms is proving to be a perfect confluence.
A drive around Paradise Palms neighborhood is a visual feast of house-candy and gush-worth Mid Century Modern design. This neighborhood has everything a mod lover could ever want in an MCM neighborhood, including butterfly roofs, brightly colored doors, breeze-block walls, manicured gardens…the list is just too long. But don’t just take my word for it, I’ve included some of my favorites to hopefully give everybody a little Atomic Ranch home inspo!
The next time you find yourself in the Las Vegas area, add a drive around Paradise Palms to your itinerary. I promise it won’t disappoint.
Looking for Las Vegas mid mod history? Check out this post all about the Morelli House.
About the Contributor
Malena Brush has owned mid century modern furniture galleries in CA, NV and AZ. She currently owns and operates Habitat Gallery, a luxury mid century modern furniture gallery in Tempe, AZ. After graduating with a BA in communication, she waded into the world of modernism and never looked back. She now spends her days buying, selling, and researching modern design. She can be found on 1stdibs, Chairish and Instagram @habitat_gallery.