El Cortez, shown here in 1956, belonged to the notorious Bugsy Siegel. (Las Vegas News Bureau )
The longest continually operating hotel-casino in Sin City, the El Cortez, has joined a small group of downtown Las Vegas buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
Opened in 1941, the hotel has survived through both boom and bust years along Fremont Street. The property, located a couple of blocks east of what’s now the Fremont Street Experience, features a Spanish Colonial Revival style, though it’s somewhat obscured by a 1952 modernization. It included the erection of a marquee that remains intact today.
Through the decades, the El Cortez has seen a variety of owners, none better known -- or more notorious -- than mobster Bugsy Siegel, who bought an interest in the property in 1945, roughly a year before he opened the Flamingo.
Siegel, who was murdered in the Beverly Hills home of his mistress in 1947, continues to be name-checked by the hotel. Its website invites guests to lose themselves in “the nostalgia of classic Vegas” while staying in a Vintage Queen room that’s not terribly different from 70 years ago. Such rooms, on the original second and third floors, are still accessible only by a creaky staircase; no elevators service this part of the property. The same stairway provides access to a barber shop, one of the hotel’s original features, that appears frozen in time.
The vintage rooms come with prices that, despite being higher than what they were in 1941, are still a bargain. Midweek rates start at $28 a night.
The El Cortez is one of only a handful of places in downtown Vegas on the Register, which is maintained by the National Park Service. Also on the list are the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort, now a state park, and the former U.S. Post Office and Courthouse, home to the Mob Museum.
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