The Boulder Dam Hotel opened its doors with a two-day celebration on Dec. 15 – 16, 1933. The Colonial Revival hostelry is located at 1305 Arizona St. in Boulder City, near the town’s business district.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, the Boulder Dam Hotel is of great significance because it not only dates back to the earliest years of the community, but it also was a leader in the tourism industry in the Southwest until the early 1940s.
The first visitors were attracted to the area by the building of Hoover Dam. The greatest civil engineering endeavor undertaken by the U.S. government since the Panama Canal, it literally put Boulder City on the map. Construction on Hoover Dam began in 1931, and at the same time the Bureau of Reclamation spent approximately $2 million to develop the town about 7 miles from the main work site.
W.F. Grey recognized the dam was a project that would draw countless visitors, so he applied for a permit to build a hotel in Boulder City in 1932. Paul Stewart “Jim” Webb broke ground for it on Sept. 1, 1933, and the Boulder Dam Hotel debuted just a few months later.
“The hotel was really the luxury, classy, ‘it’ place to stay during construction of the dam,” said Laura Hutton, manager of the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum, which is situated within the H-shaped configuration of the Boulder Dam Hotel.
In its early years, the hotel was an exclusive escape for many famous people. It hosted political leaders of the time, like Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes and Republican Senator Robert Taft of Ohio, as well as European royalty, including Loelia Lindsay, the Duchess of Westminster, and Crown Prince Olav and Princess Märtha of Norway. Movie stars Boris Karloff, Shirley Temple, Henry Fonda and Will Rogers were also welcomed here. Bette Davis popped in following the filming for “Of Human Bondage,” and Howard Hughes actually recuperated at the hotel in 1943 after crashing his airplane in Lake Mead.
The 80th anniversary of the Boulder Dam Hotel is being observed on Saturday, Dec. 14. The day’s focal event will be the 38th annual Home Tour, beginning and ending in the lobby. From 1 to 4 p.m., participants will get to explore six of Boulder City’s 1930s-era homes, all within easy walking distance of the hotel. The cost of the tour is $10, and the money raised will be used to provide scholarships for Boulder City students. Call (702) 338-8862 for tickets.
The Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum will also be open to the public for free on Dec. 14. History buffs and others are sure to be captivated by its contents. The museum showcases photographs, artifacts and memorabilia from the construction of Hoover Dam as well as tells the stories of pioneers to Boulder City in the desperate years before and during the Great Depression.
Plus, there’s another big reason to visit the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum on Saturday. A brand new special exhibit, called “The Fashionistas of Boulder City,” is being launched. It’s the result of a grant from the Costume Society of America. The organization revitalized the museum’s textile collection by bringing experts in to fix things that needed repair and to help with categorization.
“It’s all women’s clothing from the 1930s. The items have special stories, and they were all worn by women who lived in Boulder City,” said Hutton about the contents of the exhibit. “We have a gun jacket from the 1930s. It’s from a prominent Boulder City woman who settled here with her husband during construction of the dam.”
Another interesting piece of apparel is a dress uniform for a woman ordinance worker, which is what Rosie the Riveter, from the famous “We Can Do It!” posters, was. The iconic character had popularized the idea of women replacing men at factories during World War II.
Although “The Fashionistas of Boulder City” is located inside the museum, it’s not technically part of the permanent collection. That means the public will always be able to view it for free. Hutton expects the exhibit to be on display for about six months.
Last but not least, fans of the Boulder Dam Hotel’s restaurant have an additional reason to celebrate. On Dec. 14, the eatery, which is beloved for its fantastic breakfasts and lunches, will begin offering dinner service. Expect a new menu with some innovative and exciting dishes. The restaurant plans to serve dinner five days a week (Tuesday through Saturday). Breakfast and lunch will continue to be offered daily.
Over the years, the two-story Boulder Dam Hotel has undergone various expansions and renovations. Great care has been taken to preserve its classic style while providing guests with modern comforts. Along with the restaurant, museum and space for small gift shops and galleries, there are 21 guest rooms. The lobby, which boasts a fireplace and grand piano, and front porch are especially charming. However, guests come away remembering more than just the hotel’s physical environment.
“For me and from what I’ve seen and from customer feedback, it’s our employees who really make this ‘the’ place to be,” said Hutton. “We all love our jobs. We all enjoy interacting with customers, and that makes it feel very alive and like home. We get that a lot from guests – and it’s especially nice to hear from international tourists who’ve traveled so far – that they have found a ‘home’ out here in the West.”
Boulder City is roughly a 35-minute drive from the Las Vegas Strip. For more information about any of these events, contact the Boulder Dam Hotel at (702) 293-3510 or the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum at (702) 294-1988.