History of Las Vegas

Las Vegas has an exciting Old West history!

Established in 1835 after a group of settlers received a land grant from the Mexican government.

Las Vegas was established in 1835 after a group of settlers received a land grant from the Mexican government. The town was laid out in the traditional Spanish Colonial style, with a central plaza surrounded by buildings which could serve as fortifications in case of attack. Las Vegas soon prospered as a stop on the Santa Fe Trail. During the Mexican-American War in 1846, Stephen W. Kearny delivered an address at the Plaza of Las Vegas claiming New Mexico for the United States.

When the railroad arrived in 1880, it set up shop one mile east of the Plaza, creating a separate, rival New Town. During the railroad era, Las Vegas boomed, quickly becoming one of the largest cities in the American southwest. Turn-of-the-century Las Vegas featured all the modern amenities, including an electric street railway, the "Duncan Opera House" at the northeast corner of 6th Street and Douglas Avenue, a Carnegie library, a major Harvey House hotel (the historic Casteňada railway hotel), and the New Mexico Normal School (now New Mexico Highlands University). Since the decline of the railroad began in the 1950s, the city's population has remained relatively constant (around 14,000).

Las Vegas, New Mexico has 900 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, four wonderful old hotels, including the Casteňada and old west history aplenty! In 1879, Doc Holliday set up a dentist’s office and partnered in a salon, where history says he killed his first man. Billy the Kid spent time here, as did Teddy Roosevelt while recruiting cowboys for his Rough Riders.

To take a tour for the historic Las Vegas, please visit the CCHP website!

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