National Register of Historic Places in Clark County

National Register #72000764: Las Vegas Mormon Fort, Nevada 21 June 2006
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National Register #72000764
Las Vegas Mormon Fort
500 East Washington Avenue
Las Vegas

The Church of the Latter Day Saints was instrumental in the early settlement and development of southern Nevada with the establishment of Mormon colonies.

The Las Vegas Mission was the first of these settlements to be established, and was selected by the church to:

  1. Raise crops which could not be raised in the colder northern Utah climate
  2. Find new homes for the numerous Mormons coming to Salt Lake Valley
  3. To establish a halfway station on the Mormon trail between San Bernardino and Salt Lake

A thirty man mission group left Salt Lake City on May 10, 1855, and arrived in Las Vegas on June 14, 1855, and decided to build their fort adjacent to one of the two clear streams of water flowing from the nearby Las Vegas springs which nurtured native grasses, and created lush meadows in the valley near the Sunrise Mountain.

The natural oasis of meadow and mesquite forest was the winter homeland of the Paiute Indians, who spent their summers in the Charleston Mountains. The valley and the meadows were first known to the Spanish, who named Las Vegas "The Meadows" and marked it as such on maps of the southwestern desert.

The fort had walls fourteen feet high, two feet thick at the bottom, and one foot at the top. The adobe fort, enclosed eight two-story houses. Outside the fort the missionaries cultivated small gardens and fields, two and one half acres being assigned to each of the party; they planted fruit and shade trees, and established friendly relations with the Paiutes. Near the fort was also built the first smelter west of the Missouri River. This was used by the Mormons in their Potosi lead-silver mine venture.

After the Mormons departed in 1858, called back to Utah by their leader Brigham Young, Octavius Decatur Gass established the Las Vegas Rancho where he farmed 800 acres in field crops, orchards, and grazed many cattle, supplying produce to miners and travelers.

In 1882 the Archibald Stewart family bought the ranch. Soon thereafter Mr. Stewart was killed in a feud with one of his neighbors. Mrs. Stewart, with her children, continued to operate and expand the ranch as an oasis in the desert for twenty years

Mrs. Stewart sold her ranch in 1903 to the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad Company for the Las Vegas townsite, which was auctioned in lots to buyers on May 18, 1905, starting contemporary Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Mormon Fort is the oldest inhabited building in Nevada today

Source: NRHP Nomination Form

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