Fences line the houses and iron bars protect the windows block after block in the “Naked City,” one area of Las Vegas that failed to benefit from the economic boom of the past four decades.
Downtown Las Vegas has seen a renaissance over the last decade with an influx of big money and support from local government. While Main Street and East Fremont Street have seen new businesses pop up at every turn, one area that has not been so blessed has been the infamous “Naked City.”
The “Naked City” is the name that has long been associated with the area in the heart of Las Vegas that is located just west of Las Vegas Boulevard between the Strip and downtown. Bordered by Sahara on the south, Wyoming on the north, Industrial on the west and Las Vegas Boulevard along the east, the area has long been a home to crime and the destitute.
Rumors abound as to how the area earned its name. According to Cindy, from the Hard Hat Lounge, the most popular explanation is that in the 60’s the area was much nicer and local showgirls and cocktails waitresses, who often lived in the area, and were famous for sunbathing naked.
Block after block homes stand dilapidated and abandoned. For sale and for rent signs hang in succession, street after street. There are almost no businesses within the boundaries, save a plumbing shop, and air conditioning repair shop and a few maintenance equipment stores, though there are a trio of 7-11’s at its edges.
The areas reputation amongst locals and tourists speaks of prostitutes, drug dealers, and violence. According to workers at establishments lining the area, the stories may be a bit overblown.
“I’ve been behind the bar here for six years and have never had any trouble,” said Cindy, a bartender of six years at the Hard Hat Lounge on Industrial. “We get good people. Mostly a blue collar workers, cab drivers from Whittlesea cab drivers.”
At the corner of Oakey and Las Vegas Boulevard stands the former site of White Cross drugs, currently closed and under renovations, and the current site of Tiffany’s Café. Tiffany’s has been a Las Vegas mainstay since the 1960’s serving industry workers, showgirls and lounge stars, of whom many still have pictures lining the walls.
White Cross is planning to make a comeback, seeing a niche in the market for downtown shoppers. “They’re reopening in two weeks, on March 15, as White Cross Market, people need a local grocery store,” says Louis, the line cook inside Tiffany’s. “They’ll have to wait six months to get the license for the drug store,” he added.
Many of the houses inside the “Naked City” feature ornate murals, there is no crime or women of the night walking the street at 10:30 p.m. at night on a Wednesday. The local culinary union house is within the areas limits, as is the Stupak Community Center and the new Gateway Art Gallery.
The area has missed out on much of the growth and cultural rebirth that has blessed the rest of downtown Las Vegas, but the future seems brighter than rumor would imply.
East Fremont and the Arts District have helped the entire section of town to blossom, all the way up to Wyoming across the street from the “Naked City” itself. A little prosperity is so close they can taste it, and the inhabitants of the “Naked City” are waiting.