On This Date: May 29, 2003 The Closed Moulin Rouge Caught Fire

May 29, 2013
Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge Neon Sign in West Las Vegas

The Moulin Rouge opened on May 24, 1955, built at a cost of $3.5 million. It was the first integrated hotel casino in the United States. Until that time almost all of the casinos on the Strip were totally segregated—off limits to blacks unless they were the entertainment or labor force.

The hotel was located in West Las Vegas, where the black population was forced to live. West Las Vegas was bounded by Washington Avenue on the north, Bonanza Road on the south, H Street on the west, and A Street on the east. The establishment was a model of eye-catching, 110 rooms, a gorgeous showroom, swimming pool, restaurant/coffee shop, dress-shop, and bar which was constructed of highly polished and expensive hardwoods. When it opened, the Moulin Rouge was fully integrated top to bottom, from employees to patrons to entertainers.

The hotel made the June 20, 1955, cover of Life magazine, with a photo of two showgirls. A veritable “A” list of performers regularly showed to party until dawn. Great black singers and musicians such as Lena Horne, Sammy Davis Jr., Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, Pearl Bailey, and Count Basie would perform often. These artists were banned from gambling or staying at the hotels on the Strip.[1] In addition, white performers, including George Burns, Jeanette MacDonald, Tallulah Bankhead, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, Frankie Laine, Maurice Chevalier, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Jack Benny, Sophie Tucker and Frank Sinatra, would drop in after their shows to gamble and perform. Eventually management added a 2:30am “Third Show” to accommodate the crowds.

In November 1955 the Moulin Rouge closed its doors, and by December 1955, the casino had declared bankruptcy. Nevertheless, to maintain its gaming license, the Moulin Rouge (like many closed properties) operates on a temporary basis for a state-mandated minimum of eight hours every two years, most recently on June 19, 2012.

On May 29, 2003, a fire ripped through the buildings, almost entirely gutting the complex.

Photo by: Wikipedia

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