The little town by the great big dam

Boulder City, Nevada, brings back its glory days

Boulder Dam Hotel

David Zaitz

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Boulder City seems as out of place in Nevada as the Mirage's tropical rain forest. Built by the government for Hoover Dam workers and their families, the wholesome company town outlawed alcohol, gambling, and prostitution at its inception 70 years ago.

Despite its lack of vice, in its early days Boulder City attracted celebrities and politicos to its grand Dutch colonial hotel and nearby theater. Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Bette Davis, and John Wayne stayed here. With the remodel of the Boulder Dam Hotel just completed and the theater's renovation under way, residents are hoping to bring back some of the town's past glamour.

These days, Boulder City is no longer owned by the government and movie stars don't generally walk its streets, but the town makes a quiet, convenient base for visits to Lake Mead and Hoover Dam--or even a jaunt to Las Vegas, 23 miles northwest.

The 10-year renovation of the Boulder Dam Hotel brought the 1933 building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, back from near destruction. Inside, the city's history and the closely linked story of the dam are chronicled in the revamped Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum, where exhibits let you practice pouring concrete for the dam from a high-wire contraption, hear gossip from the 1930s and '40s, and view photos of the early days of Boulder City.

 

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