When I was a kid, my family spent many weekends visiting new housing developments to tour model homes—not necessarily because we were looking for somewhere new to live, but because my mother, who’s an interior designer, just loved looking at different houses, and getting inspiration from the way they were staged. (Honestly, so did I, which might explain why write a column about real estate porn.) However, short of hitting up the occasional for-sale open house, there aren’t a lot of opportunities out there to tour older houses in which people already reside, especially the midcentury models found all over central Las Vegas.
Thanks to the Nevada Preservation Foundation, that’s about to change—at least for a day. The local nonprofit agency—which was created to help neighborhoods and individual properties obtain historic designation, as well as to educate the public on the importance of historic preservation— is hosting its first-ever historic home tour on Sunday, May 3. The tour will feature about 15 homes in Vegas’ vintage neighborhoods that people will be able to explore, inside and out, ranging from a cozy, 1940s bungalow in the downtown John S. Park neighborhood to a sprawling, 1960s midcentury-modern ranch in midtown Paradise Palms. The tour, which doubles as a fundraiser for NPF, is being held in May to coincide with Historic Preservation Month.
“It’s both an educational effort and an advocacy effort,” said Jack LeVine, a local real estate agent who sits on NPF’s board of directors. “We’re trying to show more people the kinds of neighborhoods that we think should have official historic designation.”
The tour kicks off at noon inside the historic Morelli House at 861 E. Bridger Ave. Listed on three historic registries, the classic midcentury-modern home was originally located in the Desert Inn Country Club Estates, and was rescued by the Junior League of Las Vegas before it could be demolished during construction of Wynn Las Vegas. Designed by landmark architect Hugh E. Taylor, the original owner was Antonio Morelli, who conducted the orchestra at the Sands Hotel and Casino’s Copa Room in the 1950s and ‘60s. Architect and historian Alan Hess, whose numerous book credits include Viva Las Vegas: After-Hours Architecture, will give a brief lecture on Las Vegas’ unique approach to modern life and design over the years.
Participants will receive a map and guide to the homes on the tour at the Morelli House, and then will be free to visit the homes on the tour at their leisure until 5 p.m. Hardcore midcentury enthusiasts might want to upgrade to include the Midcentury Martini Tour, a VIP experience limited to 15 attendees that includes a 30-minute guided tour of an amazing, 3,500-square-foot house on the links at the Las Vegas National Golf Course in Paradise Palms. The VIP package includes, of course, a martini toast in a collectible, commemorative glass.
According to LeVine, the tour will provide a variety of examples from the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s in Downtown proper, Paradise Palms and McNeil Estates, including “time-capsule” homes that have been exquisitely preserved, as well as homes that have been updated with modern features and conveniences, but that still maintain the midcentury aesthetic of clean lines, open spaces and the merging of indoor and outdoor spaces.
“We’re looking at both houses that are original and houses that have been restored, houses that have been updated and houses that are in-progress,” said NPF Executive Director Heidi Swank.
The home tour is limited to 200 participants, and advanced tickets can be purchased at nevadapreservation.org for $40, or $30 for NPF members (prices go up $10 the day of the tour). The VIP Martini Tour (which includes the regular tour) is $100. Bonus: NPF is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, so you might be able to write off your exploration of vintage Vegas.
“This is an opportunity to see housing styles that exist in only a small part of Las Vegas,” LeVine said. “It looks absolutely nothing like what everyone thinks about when they think of a house in Las Vegas.”
Tickets for the NPF’s Inaugural Home Tour are available here.