For most Vegas visitors, taking a dip in a resort-style swimming pool Downtown might involve renting a cabana at the Golden Nugget pool or lounging by the rooftop pool of the Downtown Grand. A century ago, however, things were a little different. Back then, local residents (and likely a few tourists) might cool off in the concrete “plunge,” which was part of the Vegas Park Resort at the old Las Vegas ranch. Fed by the Las Vegas Creek, the water at the plunge was warm. Flimsy, wooden changing shacks surrounded the pool itself. By June 1911, Las Vegans could also go for a swim in the pool at Ladd’s Resort on east Fremont between Twelfth and Fifteenth streets. No plush deck chairs or fruity drinks here, just a tangle of cottonwood trees for shade and a pavilion for dancing. In fact, the pages of the Las Vegas Age reveal that both Ladd’s Resort and the Vegas Park Resort offered social dances and live orchestra music alongside their swimming pools in these early years.
In 1922, residents were afforded a third swimming option when David Lorenzi built his resort just two miles northwest of the railroad tracks. Like Ladd’s and Vegas Park, it had a dance pavilion and swimming pool, but Lorenzi upped the resort feel by adding two artificial lakes for boating. It was a popular spot for Fourth of July celebrations in the 1920s and 1930s, and still exists today as Lorenzi Park. By the time the WPA Guide to 1930s Nevada was published in 1940, the only two swimming options listed under Las Vegas were Lorenzi’s Pool and the Mermaid Pool that was located at 113 N. Fifth Street, just north of Fremont on what is Las Vegas Boulevard today.
Although the swimming options for residents and tourists alike are much more varied and sophisticated today, they are perhaps missing the sense of community and friendship that is captured in these photographs of early Las Vegas residents taking a dip under a cluster of cottonwoods.
Su Kim Chung has been immersed in the history of Las Vegas since she began work in the UNLV Libraries Special Collections Division in 1999. She is the author of multiple editions of the book Las Vegas Then and Now.