El Cortez, Las Vegas 1950s
The El Cortez Hotel was constructed in 1941, the first major resort in downtown Las Vegas, and has a storied history that continues today.
In 1945, it was briefly purchased by the infamous mobsters Bugsy Siegel, Moe Sedway, Gus Greenbaum and Meyer Lanksy who were awaiting the opening of their new property, the Flamingo Hotel and Casino.
After that opening, memorably portrayed in the 1991 film Bugsy, one of the original founders John Kell Houssells reacquired the El Cortez.
He expanded it over the course of several years, adding a nightclub, barber shop, swimming pool and a four-story bedroom wing. The Rose Room bar was re-named the Buccaneer Bar and cocktail waitresses served guests dressed in pirate outfits.
There was a grand re-opening of the ‘new’ hotel in 1952 and El Cortez neon signs were installed on the roof – still significant landmarks in Downtown Las Vegas today.
The Supper Club was also given a pirate’s theme and re-named the Pirate’s Den. Its maître d’ in 1955 was a lady called Pat Gallagher, the only female maître d’ in Las Vegas at that time. The pirate theme was phased out in the late 1950s.
Legendary casino operator Jackie Caughan – who had stakes in many casinos - bought the El Cortez and oversaw the construction of a 15- story hotel tower in the 1980s. He and his wife Bertie lived in a 2,700sq ft penthouse on the top floor of the tower.
The El Cortez changed hands again in 2008 and remains one of the top destinations in Las Vegas, the first hotel to be placed on The National Register of Historic Places for its signage and Spanish ranch-themed architecture that has remained gloriously the same for more than 80 years.
This image of a glamorous lady pirate in swashbuckling boots is taken from an original 1950s version of a souvenir menu from the El Cortez coffee shop when hamburgers cost all of 50c.
Courtesy Private Collection.
Each order includes a print of the interior menu.
All printed in USA.