Uri Vaknin loves art. He serves on the board of The Art Museum at Symphony Park, and as a partner with KRE Capital he’s had a hand in developing stylish condominium buildings including The Ogden, Juhl, and One Las Vegas. Even his own home feels a bit like a galley — a riot of colors, patterns, perfectly positioned objets and, of course, plenty of canvases.
The single-story, ranch-style home in McNeil Estates was built in 1967, and is one of a handful of homes featured in the Nevada Preservation Foundation’s fourth annual architectural home tour.
“My renovation is a clear indication of what you can do to a wonderful old house in Las Vegas to update them and make them livable for today’s lifestyle yet maintain the integrity of the original character of the house,” he said.
The interest in Las Vegas’ historic homes and neighborhoods continues to grow. Last year’s event included 15 events over the course of a weekend, this year’s Home + History Las Vegas (April 27-29) includes a lineup of 18 tours, lectures, even an opportunity to take a soak in an underground hot tub in a bomb shelter house. Also new this year is a guided bicycle tour of celebrity homes of the past and present, where people will learn about the midcentury architecture along with the lives of people who have lived there. Examples include B.B. King’s former residence on Alta Drive, which is now home to retired Raider Frank Hawkins Jr. On Pinto Lane, you can get a peek of the former abode of Mexican pop star Juan Gabriel and another that had three famous former occupants: tennis star Andre Agassi, former Mayor Jan Jones and developer Irwin Molasky.
One reason the event is gaining popularity so quickly is because it appeals to many people outside of the region. In 2016, just 3 percent of tickets to events were bought from those who lived out of state. That rose to 14 percent in 2017, and may reach 20 percent this year, according to Heidi Swank, the foundation’s executive director.
“We get email from people across the country who want to come learn about our history,” Swank said. “It’s bringing a whole new sector of tourists to the community. There’s a lot of popularity, not only from the U.S. but across the globe, about midcentury architecture that we have from the heyday of Las Vegas when it grew so quickly and was an amazing place to go in the middle of the desert.”
Swank said the feedback has been so positive, the group is already considering adding a fourth day to the schedule in 2019.
“Our mission is to educate the public in the historic buildings and the stories that exist here with those buildings in Las Vegas,” Swank said. “There’s a myth that Las Vegas blows everything up, and we’re here to counter that myth by showing them all the fabulous things we have.”
Photos by Bill Hughes