The Frontier and Silver Slipper
The Frontier Hotel and Casino was the brainstorm of R.E. Griffith, a theater and restaurant entrepreneur and opened its doors on October 30, 1942. Located on Las Vegas Boulevard (then known as Highway 91 to Los Angeles), it was the first themed hotel and casino, and is often credited with starting the themed resort trend in Vegas. The property had a long history of gambling when the Frontier opened its doors. In 1939, Guy McAfee, a former vice commander from Los Angeles, opened the Pair-O-Dice Club. It was renamed the Ambassador Night Club in 1936 and Club 91 in 1939. Griffith purchased the property from McAfee to develop The Frontier.
Griffiths wanted his guests to have a full Old West experience. He designed the resort so that everything from menus to decor to leisure activities included a western theme. Guests were welcomed in a lobby with wooden floors and exposed lumber logs supporting a ceiling comprised of similar logs. The walls were covered in wallpaper of deep reds, greens and gold, and lined with buffalo and deer heads. The lobby, dining area and casino were lit with replica lanterns used along the Pony Express, each hanging from authentic and replica wagon wheels. In the lobby, guests could gather around a gigantic sandstone fireplace, which was built by Navajo Indians with sandstone mined in the Red Rock valley. The hotel bar, Gay Nineties Club, contained the original bar and decor from the bar at the former Arizona Club (one of the first hotels and casinos in Las Vegas).
When it opened, it boasted a banquet facility that could seat 600 and parking spaces for 900 cars. It also offered a primitive form of air conditioning to provide its guests with relief from the desert heat. Tunneled pipes in the floors and walls carried cold water, cooling the rooms. Guests mail was delivered via the Pony Express.
When guests were not gambling or taking in a show, they could wander the streets of the Frontier Village, which contained thousands of western relics. Guests could walk actual wooden sidewalks while shopping in a fully functioning general store, gambling in a saloon, mining for gold or getting locked up in a full-sized mining camp jail. For the very adventurous, horseback rides and stage coach excursions into the desert were available.
The Frontier was also the home of the first wedding chapel in Las Vegas, Little Church of the West, also known as “The Hitching Post”. It was a half-sized replica of an actual church built during the Gold Rush in Columbia, California.
In 1955, the Frontier was renamed and reimagined for the space age. Now called the Last Frontier, the hotel and casino featured a space theme. The lobby featured 3-D amethyst murals depicting the zodiac, a nightclub named Cloud Nine and a showroom called Venus.
The Last Frontier operated as a hotel and casino until 2007, when it was closed and the buildings demolished. Part of the property was purchased by Donald Trump and a group of investors, and is now the Trump Hotel Las Vegas. The rest of the property was purchased in 2017 by Wynn Resorts, and remains an empty lot.
Attached to The Frontier was the casino, The Silver Slipper, recognized for the giant silver slipper that rotated around. It opened in the early 1960’s as the Golden Slipper Saloon and Gambling Hall. The owner wanted to name it The Silver Slipper but could not due to another hotel/casino with a similar name. When that establishment closed in 1964, the casino was renamed The Silver Slipper. The Silver Slipper was the first casino to be charged for cheating when investigators raided the casino in 1964 and charged the owners with using “flat dice” and running other rigged games. In 1968, the casino was purchased by Howard Hughes. The story is that he purchased the Slipper because he believed the slipper had a camera in the toe and was being used to film him, as well as the constant lighting from the rotating was said to drive him crazy. Hughes purchased the property and immediately closed it down. In the early 70’s, the property was purchased by the owner of the Last Frontier (originally the Frontier) and demolished for additional parking for the Last Frontier.
Other interesting tid bits about the Frontier:
Scientists working on the atomic bomb stayed at the hotel on weekends when they traveled to the are for the research
The Frontier was the location for Elvis Presley’s first Vegas performance and the location of the last performance of Diana Ross and the Supremes
One of the longest culinary worker union protests took place from September 1991 to February 1998