Historic Moulin Rouge on fire as we type this. Image courtesy of the Las Vegas Review Journal.
The historic Moulin Rouge hotel and casino, destroyed by fire today, is already being torn down, a Las Vegas city spokesman said late this afternoon.
The cause of the fire is undetermined, said Jace Radke, spokesman for the city of Las Vegas.
"But it's a total loss," Radke said, referring to the 54-year-old landmark in the western Las Vegas Valley.
Las Vegas Fire Department investigators will begin a thorough examination of the smoldering ruins as soon as the building is safe, he said.
Bulldozers began this afternoon tearing down two-story apartments that had burned near the front of the hotel property, Radke said.
Firefighters from three area fire departments battled a four-alarm blaze for more than two hours at the historic Moulin Rouge hotel and casino.
UPDATE 3:20 pm:
After two hours of battling the fire at the historic Moulin Rouge property, firefighters have contained the blaze. The alarm was sounded at 11:45 am and fire stations from the area responded. The City of Las Vegas requested additional squads from the City of North Las Vegas and Clark County to help battle the four alarmer when nearby occupied apartment buildings were threatend.
No injuries were reported and firefighters did not find any one in the structure.
The four alarm fire was called not because of the intensity of the blaze but to help contain the fire from spreading past the historic property. There are low-rent apartments in the adjoining area of the property on Bonanza Road.
From Mary Manning at the Las Vegas Sun:
"It's a hot day, and they need to rotate crews through there," Jace Radke, official fire spokesman, said.
Sixteen engines from the three fire departments responded to the fire, Radke said.
The fire occurred in part of the hotel that had been converted to apartment units, but was currently unoccupied.
From the Las Vegas Review Journal:
"Joyce Sheets, who works at Nevada Restaurant Services across the street from the Moulin Rogue, said she called 911 when colleagues came to her and said they saw smoke and a window explode from a building on the property. Sheets said she was initially concerned firefighters might struggle to put out the blaze. “There was lots of black smoke,” she said. “We were not that far away.”
"Joyce Sheets, who works at Nevada Restaurant Services across the street from the Moulin Rogue, said she called 911 when colleagues came to her and said they saw smoke and a window explode from a building on the property.
Sheets said she was initially concerned firefighters might struggle to put out the blaze.
“There was lots of black smoke,” she said. “We were not that far away.”
Cause of the suspicious fire is still under investigation.
Good thing they moved the wonderful neon sign last week. Wasn't a moment too soon as the Moulin Rouge is burning as we speak. According to Channel 13, the only local station with live coverage at the moment, it is a four alarm fire with many different stations responding.
The cause of the fire is still undetermined as firefighters continue to battle and try to contain the blaze. It does appear from the news coverage that the main building wall where the sign was once perched is gone.
According to Mary Manning at the Las Vegas Sun, an abandoned apartment building behind the main building is also threatened.
An arson fire destroyed much of the main building and the complex in May of 2003.
The building was added to the Historic Registry in 1992. It closed for business in 1997. Preservation efforts were made over the next six years until the 2003 blaze destroyed the main building. All that remained from that fire was the outer wall of the main building and Betty Willis' beautiful script sign.
The sign was moved to the Boneyard late last week.
From Mary Manning:
Although the Moulin Rouge had its heydey in the first year of operation, its historical significance in Las Vegas and to America's civil rights movement remains indelible, Las Vegas historians noted.
David Milman, a historian at the Nevada State Museum and Historical Society at Lorenzi Park, said the Moulin Rouge's importance was as "a beacon of initegration. Its lasting legacy was not the actual hotel, but rather the idea. Its existence guaranteed that things were going to change in racial policies in Las Vegas."
Once the Moulin Rouge was shuttered in 1997, the resort's 110 rooms were converted into low-rent apartment housing. The hotel is located in what has long been one of Las Vegas' poorest areas.
In the 1950s conditions were so bad in West Las Vegas some houses were mere shacks with no water, sewage system or electricity. Laws of the time prohibited blacks from living anywhere else in town.
The Moulin Rouge was the only hotel and casino in Las Vegas that allowed black patrons.
The resort was built for $7 million by Beverly Hills, Calif., real estate entrepreneur Alex Bisno and New York restaurateur Louis Rubin.
In March 1960 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and community leaders met at the Moulin Rouge to broker a deal with white casino owners to end segregation practices on the Las Vegas Strip.
Courtesy of the Las Vegas Sun
Moulin Rouge in 1955
Life Magazine cover 1955, photo by Don English
Postcard of the historic Moulin Rouge with Betty's signage
Showgirls at the Moulin Rouge in 1955 include Anna Bailey and Dedee Jasmine
Interior pylon with ceramic tile now gone
Another interior pylon with light fixtures in the background, now gone
Interior pictures courtesy of Jack LeVine and VeryVintageVegas
Joel Rosales of LeavingLV.net is reporting that the remaining wing of the original building is gone as well. Joel was in that wing a few weeks back taking pictures and says that some of the lighting fixtures and decor were still there. They are gone now.