Editor’s Note: This is another in a continuing series about long-time hotels in Southern Nevada: Today: The Fremont Hotel and Casino on Fremont Street which turned 60 in May.
The Fremont Hotel and Casino celebrated its 60th birthday this year and is going strong in an era of change in the industry that has seen the end of many iconic properties.
The 30,000 square-foot downtown hotel casino continues to prosper on Fremont Street, once known for its dusty streets and cowboy atmosphere.
Sixty years of life in the hotel industry is rare in Southern Nevada. In a city where change is the norm, the Fremont continues to be a favorite destination for visitors who enjoy its downtown hospitality.
“The Fremont has been a part of the Downtown Las Vegas experience since 1956, so it’s only fitting that we would create some excitement of our own with the celebration of this milestone anniversary,” said Jim Sullivan, vice president and general manager of the Fremont Hotel and Casino.
The Fremont opened May 18, 1956 under the ownership of Ed Levinson and Lou Lurie and was one of the first high-rise hotels in Las Vegas. The hotel originally opened with 155 rooms.
The hotel’s Carnival Lounge lured promising entertainers such as singer Wayne Newton who appeared in 1959 and became a Las Vegas legend.
Boyd Gaming took control of the property in 1985 when the company purchased the Fremont and its sister property the Stardust.
In 1963, the Fremont was expanded to include the 14-story Ogden tower and one of the city’s first vertical parking garages.
The Fremont was purchased in 1974 by Allen Glick’s Argent Corp. The hotel underwent a $4 million expansion two years later.
In the 1980s, the Fremont experienced several changes and was purchased along with the Stardust Hotel for $165 million by Sam and Bill Boyd, who convinced the banks that they had the staying power to succeed.
The new owner instituted changes and added a Tony Roma’s restaurant inside the hotel in 1986. A new marque was completed in 1988 and a new buffet replaced the Carnival Lounge in 1989.
Former Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman hailed the Boyds and said “It was a wonderful thing that Sam and Bill had the courage and the prescience to know a good thing when they saw it.”
Known for their class and keen knowledge of the gaming industry, the Boyds brought stability to both the hotel-casino and Fremont Street.
The movie industry discovered Fremont Street and the Fremont Hotel in the 1990s. Scenes from the comedy “Honey I Blew Up the Kids was filmed at the hotel in 1992 and “Swingers” was also shot at the hotel in 1996.
In 1995, the Boyds joined forces with other downtown owners Steve Wynn (Golden Nugget) and Jackie Gaughan (The Plaza) to open the Fremont Street Experience, a project that turned a major area of downtown Las Vegas into an outdoor mall complete with new entertainment and retail outlets.
Longtime current and former employees have great memories about their time at the resort.
For instance, lead valet attendant Ray Lucero has been a member of the team since 1958. He has parked cars for the best of them including Elvis Presley, Dean Martin and Liberace. With exception of two years after being drafted in the 1960s, Lucero has spent his entire career working in valet at the Fremont.
Lucero said, “Valet doesn’t change much. Just the people and the cars.”
There has been great success at the Fremont, and Sullivan commented, “One thing The Fremont has always focused on is our customer service. That’s what really put this property on the map after Boyd Gaming bought it in 1985.”
Former Nevada state senator Mike Schneider worked at The Fremont in the early 1970s. He was a food and beverage controller and food and beverage director.
“The Fremont is at a good location and it has almost a block-long casino,” Schneider said. “The hotel has always had good restaurants and it’s been locally run for so many years. People have been treated right there. Back in the day, we all had a lot of fun working at the Fremont.” +