Boulder City Correspondence – May 2016

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Boulder City

Discovering Boulder City

Travelers tend to run into Boulder City, coming and going from somewhere else.  Going to Lake Mead and Hoover Dam. Coming from Phoenix to Las Vegas, or vice versa. But there are so many amazing things surrounding the town that it gets run into a lot. I ran into it 22 years ago and found “my Mayberry” — and made it my staging area for exploring one of the coolest corners of the Southwest. Close to the cool adventures in Northern Arizona, the Mojave Preserve in California, backdoor to Southern Utah, staging area for outdoor adventure in Southern Nevada, and of course, Vegas, baby.

Arizona Spillway, Hoover Dam. (Photo by GOYA photography, Boulder City)
          Arizona Spillway, Hoover Dam. (Photo by GOYAphotography, Boulder City)

But first a few factoids about Boulder City. Boulder City was built to house workers building Hoover Dam in the 1930s,  which makes if really old by Southern Nevada Standards. The reason it’s called Boulder City is because originally Hoover Dam was called Boulder Dam Project, which was going to be built in, naturally, Boulder Canyon. But after the geology and engineering guys really got into it, they decided to move dam further downstream to Black Canyon. But in the days before wordpress and cut and paste it was just easier to keep the name “Boulder Dam.” Actually, the name of the Dam was changed a few times, depending on which political party had presidential power, changing from Boulder Dam to Hoover Dam, back to Boulder Dam again, and then back to Hoover Dam — which, the last time I checked, it is still named. This has caused confusion in the town itself with naming things and owners getting tired of changing signs. So to this day we still have beautifully preserved historic relics such as the Boulder Dam Hotel, which houses the Boulder City-Hoover Dam Museum. So if you’re in town don’t ask directions to Boulder Dam, because there isn’t one. You’ll probably end up at the Hotel.

The Boulder Hotel and Museum today. The hotel was built in 1933 to accommodate visiting dignitaries and government employees.
The Boulder Dam Hotel and Museum today. The hotel was built in 1933 to accommodate visiting dignitaries and officials of the U.S. Government.

Boulder City is also the largest city in Nevada and the 35th largest in the U.S. — not measured by people or jackrabbits, but by land mass, at 208 square miles. With a population around 15,000, that’s around 72 people per square mile, but since most BC residents are a friendly lot we all tend to live close together in town, in what I call the Mayberry of Southern Nevada, complete with neighborhood barbershop and friendly police.

Newly built Mission Revival style houses for federal government employees and their families on Park Street, Boulder City, about 1932. Later, lawns were planted, and all the landscape and home maintenance was thereafter provided to the residents by government workers.
Newly built Mission Revival style houses for federal government employees and their families on Park Street, Boulder City, about 1932. Later, lawns were planted, and all the landscape and home maintenance was thereafter provided to the residents by government workers — until 1959, when Boulder City ceased to be a government-controlled federal reservation.

Before 1960, Boulder City was owned and administered by the Federal Government and actually had the first master-planned community layout, in radial form like many European cities. What was really cool about it was that you never had to mow your lawn — because the federal government took care of it. What was a little less than ideal to many people was the fact that if was the only place in Nevada you couldn’t gamble or buy a drink. The only alternative, if you wanted a convenient place to have a beer or a cocktail, was to join a private philanthropic organization such as the Masons or Elks, which had their own private members-only bars. Although today there are many places to imbibe around town, in those days many of the drunks in town did a lot of great community work.

Spring Jamboree

Saturday, May 7th and Sunday, May 8th is Spring Jamboree, a great event throughout the Parks in Old Town. It’s a mostly-locals event about crafts, contests, eating, walking and other hometown-type events, but it’s also a great opportunity to get the vibe of Boulder City.

Alan Goya

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