History and Customs of Early Las Vegas
Las Vegas was a dry desert town when it was first developed in 1905 by railroad workers and ranchers. It had natural springs and grass which made it a popular stop for travelers. It became known for some unusual attractions such as gambling and brothels.
From the early 1900s Nevada was known as a place where unhappy couples could get a relatively quick divorce. Las Vegas embraced the concept of an even quicker marriage, with no blood tests or waiting periods. The Strip’s first wedding chapel, the Little Church of the West, opened in 1942. (History 2009)
Gambling brought in growth, but it also brought in the legendary mob element as Las Vegas became a one stop shop for money laundering. Corporations and wealthy individuals began buying and building mega casinos in the 1950’s and 60’s and modern-day Las Vegas was born.
With so many cultural elements colliding in one space, food had to play a part in that international mash-up.
Las Vegas Hungers for Asian Decadence
Las Vegas’ Chinatown—in actuality a mix of Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese and many other influences, a true international district—is kind of a miracle; it didn’t exist a little more than 25 years ago. It began when three partners—Henry Hwang, K.C. Chen and James Chen—wanted to make a place where Asian tourists could go to get a good meal. What they built was a seven-acre-plus mini-district in the style of the Emperor’s Palace, with pagoda-style ceramic-tiled roofs, a paifang entrance gate and a towering gold statue inspired by the 16th-century Chinese novel Journey to the West. It began opening in phases in 1993, with a grand opening in February 1995. (Carter 2019)
History.com Editors. “Las Vegas.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2 Dec. 2009, www.history.com/topics/us-states/las-vegas.
Carter, Geoff. “What Began as a Hunger Pang Became Las Vegas’ Thriving Chinatown District.” LasVegasWeekly.com, 31 Jan. 2019, lasvegasweekly.com/news/2019/jan/31/what-began-hunger-pain-became-thriving-chinatown.
Kachelriess, Rob. “Where To Eat in Las Vegas’ Chinatown.” Thrillist, 2 Feb. 2021, www.thrillist.com/eat/las-vegas/best-chinatown-restaurants-in-vegas.