Preservation Magazine, Winter 2017

A 1920s School In West Las Vegas Gets A Facelift

photo by: Dave Chawla

Before the Old Town School was constructed in 1923, children on the west side of Las Vegas had to walk miles and cross train tracks just to get to class. Attended by local students, which likely included members of the nearby Paiute tribe, the Mission Revival structure (today known as the Westside School) originally had two rooms, with two more built circa 1928. A U-shaped, Ranch-style annex was added to the complex 20 years later to accommodate a growing population that included many African-American students whose families had moved to the area, in part because of city segregation laws.

Decommissioned in the 1960s after serving as a USO headquarters and community space that showed movies and stayed open late during World War II, the Westside School was converted into the KCEP-FM radio station’s headquarters in the early 1980s. Though the original structure was in good condition following a 2005 roof replacement, the annex’s failing foundation motivated the city to begin planning for the complex’s rehabilitation by the mid-2000s. With a budget of $12.5 million (some of which came from New Markets Tax Credits), KME Architects completed the 18-month project in July. Work included replacing the annex’s concrete floors, uncovering and refinishing original Douglas fir flooring in the 1923 structure, and replicating historic doors, windows, and light fixtures. The newly restored structure will serve as a mixed-use retail, office and museum space.

“West Las Vegas probably has one of the most complicated and rich histories of our city,” says Courtney Mooney, historic preservation officer for the City of Las Vegas. “[This rehabilitation] shows a huge commitment on the part of the city to investing in this history.”

Katharine Keane is a former editorial assistant at Preservation Magazine. She enjoys getting lost in new cities, reading the plaques at museums, and discovering the next great restaurant.

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