Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Design in Neon: The Las Vegas Neon Boneyard

Neon is one of the most enduring symbols of commercial design, and no city on earth features the flicker of electricity running through a tube of argon or neon quite like Las Vegas, Nevada.  Even though neon is not as promenant as it was in the 40's, 50's, and 60's you can still get your fix of mid-century neon in Las Vegas at the Neon Museum and Boneyard.

The Neon Museum "boneyard" is located near the Fremont District of Las Vegas and features hundreds of pieces of historic neon which are only available through a guided tour.  The tour is essential; there's so many pieces crammed into the boneyard that you would no doubt miss something without a guide.  Besides, the guides add so many pieces of information it really brings the boneyard to life.

The boneyard is amazingly well organized.  For a photographer, the place is a dream.  It's as if each piece has been set up for the perfect photograph; the framing, the lighting, even the colour composition is almost Disney-esque.  I lost track of how many pictures I took.  You can check out the best of the lot in the slideshow below.

In addition to the exhibits inside the boneyard, the building that houses the offices and reception area of the museum is a piece of Las Vegas history in itself.  It is the original lobby of the La Concha Hotel, and was donated to the Museum in 2005.  The building, designed by American architect Paul Rever Williams, was broken down into 8 pieces and then moved 6 miles from its original location on the Strip to be reassembled at the boneyard.

For your next trip to Las Vegas, take an afternoon and schedule a tour at the Neon Museum (tours are mandatory due to the nature of the exhibits) and make sure you book online.
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If the Museum doesn't fit into your schedule, there's another option if you'd like to get a feel for the neon signs from Las Vegas's past. The Downtown Gallery (Fremont Street at Las Vegas Blvd) and the Las Vegas Signs Project (located on Las Vegas Blvd. between Sahara and Washington Street) feature 15 electrified, restored signs installed as public art throughout the downtown area. These signs are available for viewing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

1 comment:

  1. Though I've been in a "pastel" frame of life for quite some time now, when it comes to neon, I'm right there.  Eexcluding those unfortunate cacti so popular on rumpus-room walls and basement-converted-to-bar counters.

    My love affair with the stuff started when I was perhaps five, I think, on our trips from our tee-ninecy small town to Memphis to visit relatives.   We'd leave way early in the afternoon to get home before dark, and I'd always hold my breath and pray that the "little hammer" would be lit before we passed it.

    It was a fascinating little thing, a small three-image neon up on a pole, with a blue handle and read hammer-head, and as you watched, the blinking lights magically caused it to swing down for a tap on the nail, ad infinitum.    I'd crane around in the back seat and watch that thing til it was out of sight, counting the times of descent, hoping to reach twelve before we turned a far-away corner.

    And now, living in such a large city, I just look my eyes full of all the gaudy glamour, enjoying everything from  majestic portals to beer signs, and one great regret is that I didn't follow my heart and buy the immense sign-with--a-star taken down when they remodeled a nearby Holiday Inn (purpoted to be second one in the world).    I have no idea what I'd have done with it way out in our little rural area, but I woudn't have cared---I'd have lit it up and looked at it every night.

    I've never been to Las Vegas---I'd probably pass out from sheer glory overload.



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