Photograph of the I-15 corridor, March 23, 2016. Aaron Mayes, UNLV Libraries Special Collections.
Special Collections launched the Building Las Vegas collecting initiative in July 2016. With start-up funding from the Tiberti Family, the project initially focuses on collecting oral histories with architects, urban planners, builders, developers, contractors, interior designers, environmental activists, and civil engineers who played significant roles in shaping our region’s built environment. Stefani Evans, project coordinator, and Claytee White, director of the Oral History Research Center, have already collected more than 75 interviews in the first three months of the project. Here are some examples of the stories they have collected:
"Las Vegas development in the 1970s in housing was hodgepodge. It wasn't that the homes weren't built by good builders, because there were a lot of good builders. I mentioned some of them including Pardee Homes, Lewis Homes, and Metropolitan Development. Earlier, there were some pioneer builders, the Becker family and the Chism family. What you saw, though, in the history of Las Vegas up into the middle and late 1970s, was the builders weren’t sensitive to broader architectural styles. They were just trying to build shelter. It was more of a shelter market." -- Interview with Larry Canarelli, president and CEO, American West Homes, 2016
"One of [Summerlin's] real signatures is the streetscapes compared to when you look around other areas in Las Vegas. Sidewalks are wider than code. There's a reason for that. Because we like to see people using the outdoor areas. You see bikers. You see people with baby strollers walking, running. That's all part of the lifestyle we're trying to create. And people love to be outdoors in Summerlin. The trail system is a hundred and fifty miles. It's fantastic. So we want people to feel good where they live, how they live, what they do when they're here." -- Interview with Kevin Orrock, president of Summerlin for The Howard Hughes Corporation, 2015
"[E]ven at twenty nine, I had this very clear vision of what the Flood Control District needed to look like. I knew we needed to have rainfall and data collection. I knew we needed to have new guidelines for developing in flood prone areas. I knew that we needed an environmental program to mitigate the impacts of some of the projects we were building. I knew we needed a good capital plan to prioritize and implement flood control projects on the master plan. And we needed to be able to anticipate new development while prioritizing the protection for the people who were here now." -- Interview with Virginia Valentine, the first chief engineer and general manager of the Clark County Regional Flood Control District in Las Vegas, 2016
A vital part of documenting our community includes collecting evidence about the region’s built environment, its architecture and design, the structures and materials, and its patterns of growth and development. Special Collections has preserved over a century of historical materials about Las Vegas’s growth, beginning with documentation of the first plots, roads, pipes, and buildings in Las Vegas. In our collections, researchers will find materials about architecture, real estate and urban development, the environment, aerial photographs, street maps and subdivision plats, publications, and much more. These resources tell a fascinating story of how Las Vegas came to be.
Because Southern Nevada has experienced unprecedented growth in the past thirty years, and serves as a model for studying modern urban issues, Special Collections launched this initiative to focus our collecting efforts on finding and securing additional evidence about our region’s growth. We are looking for individuals to share their story about their impact on the urban landscape, and we are seeking donations of personal, organizational or corporate archives about development in Southern Nevada. Together, the oral histories and archival records will reveal a layered and complex picture about the people who built Southern Nevada and how they shaped our unique environment.
With additional external funding, we will expand this project to a five-year initiative to encompass collecting oral histories, organizing the archival collections to prepare them for research, taking photographs of the region to document change, digitizing significant research resources holdings, building a searchable online repository, and hosting research fellowships and exhibits.
- Contact Stefani Evans, Building Las Vegas Project Coordinator, at stefani.evans [at] unlv.edu, (702) 895-2222, for more information about the project or about doing an oral history.
- Contact Peter Michel, Special Collections Curator, peter.michel [at] unlv.edu, (702) 895-2243, for more information about donating historical materials and archival collections.
- Contact UNLV Libraries Development Office at (702) 895-2239 to make a financial gift to support the project.