A Paradise Worth Waiting For


Dave Cornoyer


Newsletter, Regional Spotlight
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The Other Las Vegas Part Four
A Paradise Worth Waiting For

by Dave Cornoyer

Due east of the Las Vegas strip lies one of the most well-known treasure troves of midcentury homes in Las Vegas: Paradise Palms. In 1960, fresh off their build of nearby Sunrise Hospital, local developers Irwin Molasky and Merv Adelson (who later in the decade would form Lorimar Television Productions) formed Paradise Development Corporation and Paradise Homes, with the intention of opening up Las Vegas’ Paradise Valley east of Maryland Parkway along Desert Inn Road for development and creating a wide-range of upscale housing on a 720-acre plot of vacant desert. The duo would build what is widely regarded as the first master planned community in Las Vegas, complete with schools, shopping, housing and recreation. At the heart of the community was the Stardust Golf and Country Club (later becoming the Sahara, Hilton, and today the Las Vegas National Golf Club). Land for an elementary school was set aside at the center of the community, while strips along Desert Inn Road were reserved for apartments and offices, and acreage along Maryland Parkway was planned for Nevada’s first regional indoor shopping center, the Parkway (named Boulevard at opening) mall. 

Local architect Hugh Taylor, who had worked with Adelson and Molasky designing the original Sunrise Hospital in 1958 (and was responsible for the design of the original Desert Inn), was hired for the job and four floor plans were offered upon Paradise Palms’ grand opening in July 1960. Each home was designed with a central hall plan that allowed access to any room without passing through another. They also bore a striking resemblance to the floor plans that the Alexander Construction Company was building down in Palm Springs’ Racquet Club Road Estates. 

The exteriors of the original Paradise Palms homes offered heavy use of decorative screen block, unique rooflines, and Masonite siding. Homes were cleverly rotated on their lot to increase the diversity of elevations. The initial 70+ homes sold quickly, notably to many high-profile members of the entertainment and gaming industries. 

In 1961, Adelson and Molasky brought southern California architects Dan Palmer and Bill Krisel to Paradise Palms, opening up the Plan-o-ramic model home center with 8 initial plans for buyers to choose from. Palmer & Krisel brought with them four recycled plans from other communities, including the Racquet Club Road Estates plan which the Hugh Taylor homes were inspired by, and developed a wide range of elevations using their iconic rooflines of gable, shed, flat, butterfly and hipped gable. Facades consisted of a broad range of materials, including stone, block, and board and batten siding. Three more plans were added in 1963, which incorporated new folded plate rooflines and a series of Hawaiian elevations all designed to reach the broadest spectrum of new home buyers. 

Out of the 1000 homes built in Paradise Palms, the Hugh Taylor and Palmer & Krisel-designed homes make up less than half, but draw in much of the neighborhood’s recognition. 

In 1963 other builders were added to Paradise Palms including Miranti, Tropical Estates, Eastern Enterprises, DL Bradley and Marshal Seacrest’s Americana Homes. These homes all carried their own set of unique characteristics. Lee and ‘Val’ Valente, builders of Tropical Estates, offered homes that epitomized Las Vegas swank, with low-slung rooflines, indoor planters, large sunken roman tubs and unique decorative concrete block. Their personal residence in Paradise Palms was made famous as the fictional home of Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein and Ginger McKenna in 1995’s ‘Casino’ (those with a keen eye will remember the swimming pool is in the shape of a ‘V’ for Valente). 

Marshal Seacrest’s Americana Homes were designed by California architect William M. Bray to offer more traditional midcentury architecture to Las Vegas buyers. Seacrest was successful in his Las Vegas builds, and oftentimes would sell his models fully furnished to appease buyer demand. DL Bradley built semi-custom luxury homes in a section known as Stellar Greens that took the modern ranch home to a new level with flat and gable roof options, terrazzo flooring, rear walls of glass, sunken roman tubs overlooking small outdoor gardens and built-in Nu-Tone appliances.  

Miranti homes offered modest, all-block ranch homes, with decorative block reliefs, colorful baths and kitchens with reversible cabinet doors. Eastern Enterprises built the last large-scale tract in Paradise Palms known as Fontainebleau Estates, which cleverly used only two floor plans with a variety of elevations to create a diverse street scene. Interiors featured grand double door entrances, sunken living rooms and wood burning fireplaces. 

Paradise Palms carries a storied history of notable residents, including Johnny Carson, Phyliss Diller, Rip Taylor, Bobby Darrin, Dean Koontz, Juan Garcia Esquivel, Don Cherry, Joe Louis, Sonny Liston, Debbie Reynolds, Delores Fuller, Foster Brooks, Juliet Prowse, and Shecky Greene, just to name a few. As Las Vegas grew, Paradise Palms was soon engulfed by the city, and what was once the outskirts of town is now considered to be Midtown Las Vegas. 

In 1965 Paradise Development sought to recreate the magic of Paradise Palms with Black Mountain Estates, located on the now shuttered Black Mountain Golf Course in Henderson, Nevada. The Palmer & Krisel-designed homes utilized the same elevations as their counterparts in Paradise Palms, with the addition of a new ‘Hawaiian’ themed elevation that wasn’t utilized in Paradise Palms. Twenty-five homes were constructed, but unfortunately a recession hit the Las Vegas Valley in 1965, and the homes had difficulty selling, even with a $50 total move in incentive. 

Midcentury modern fell out of favor in the 1970s and 80s, and the quintessential midcentury tract of Paradise Palms soon saw other styles being thrust upon it. Mansard roofs were added to keep up with the 70s, stucco popouts were added in the 80s and 90s, and shifting trends in homebuyers left Paradise Palms behind as midcentury modern was viewed by home buyers as ‘dated.’ When the great recession hit, low prices brought in an influx of investors and flippers. To counter that move, neighbors began to gather in 2011 for monthly in-home cocktail parties as a way to build community, socialize, and promote sensitive rehabilitation. Hundreds of residents have participated over the past decade. 

In 2016, neighbors partnered with the Nevada Preservation Foundation to establish a historic district in the original tract of the neighborhood under Clark County’s newly adopted Historic Neighborhood Overlay ordinance. Around 200 homes were included in that first effort, including all of the Hugh Taylor-designed homes, and plans are well underway to include another 250 homes in the next phase of historic designation. In 2015, Paradise Palms became the first Nevada organization to partner with Docomomo US for Tour Day, offering visitors an annually sold-out open-aired double decker bus tour of the community, covering architecture, storied history, interior tours, and of course cocktails.  

Today Paradise Palms remains an eclectic neighborhood, filled with a mix of careful restorations, investment owners, deferred maintenance, midcentury inspired renovations, and every opportunity imaginable for rehabilitation or restoration. The beauty of Paradise Palms is that it’s uniquely Las Vegas, and doesn’t pretend to be anything else.

About the Author

Dave Cornoyer is a 20-year Las Vegas resident, graduate of UNLV’s Landscape Architecture program, former city planner, midcentury and history enthusiast, and is the Forward Planning Manager of Lennar Las Vegas.  

The Other Las Vegasis part of the Docomomo US Regional Spotlight on Modernism Series, which was launched to help you explore modern places throughout the country without leaving your home. Previous spotlights include Chicago, MississippiMidland, Michigan, and Houston. Have a region you'd like to see highlighted? Submit an article.

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The Other Las Vegas Part Five
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