Like Vintage Glow Sticks, Many Neon Signs Are Making a Comeback in Vegas

Vegas Vickie, the colorful cowgirl who greeted Fremont Street visitors for decades, was taken down as part of plans to develop a new hotel-casino on the site of the old Las Vegas Club. (Tom Donoghue Photography)

As one classic neon sign came down in Las Vegas during June, another went up in this city where the preservation of historic signage is a growing business.

Vegas Vickie, the neon cowgirl that towered over Fremont Street for nearly 40 years, has been lowered from her perch and put in storage. Originally named “Sassy Sally,” the sign was removed in mid-June as part of plans to tear down the old Las Vegas Club to make way for a new hotel-casino.

The Red Barn is Back

Vickie’s demise doesn’t mean a reduction in the amount of historic signs around town. In fact, one has just been erected on the Strip in front of Fashion Show Mall.

The Red Barn stood for years outside a business with an eclectic history. Located along East Tropicana Avenue near Maryland Parkway, it opened as an antique store in the late 1950s. By the early 60s, it morphed into a tavern which, in 1969, evolved into a gay bar.

The Red Barn sign is the first of what will be a rotating lineup of signs to grace the Strip. They will come from the collection of the Neon Museum, located near downtown at 770 Las Vegas Blvd. North.

Let there be light

The museum is the force behind the Las Vegas Signs Project, which publicly displayed its first sign — the Hacienda Hotel’s horse and rider — at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont Street in 1996.

In more recent years, signs from other long-gone businesses have been placed along downtown streets. They include 5th St. Liquor Store, Binion’s Horseshoe, Bow & Arrow Motel, Lucky Cuss Hotel, Normandie Motel, Silver Slipper and Society Cleaners.

The museum has a guide and map to help you find the signs.

Other, often-familiar signs can been viewed at the museum, once just a storage yard known as the Neon Boneyard.

330 feet of neon tubing

The museum’s latest additions come from Palace Station on West Sahara Avenue. Thanks to a remodel of the hotel-casino, the signs that have greeted guests since 1983 now have a new home. Each of the letters in the hotel’s name is between 4 and 6 feet tall. They’re surrounded by more than 330 feet of neon tubing.

Where and when Vegas Vickie will be resurrected remains unknown.

“We are on the active hunt to find the best home possible for our girl,” downtown casino developer Derek Stevens said in a prepared statement.

Late-night tours

The Neon Museum has just expanded its after-dark tours to include new ones beginning every 20 minutes between 10:20 p.m. and 11:40 p.m. The hour-long tours are offered Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

Both guided and self-guided tours are available at varying prices. The late-night guided tours cost $28.

Info: Neon Museum, (702) 387-6366.

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