Las Vegas Museum Honors African American Architect

The newly opened Neon Museum in Las Vegas more than preserves the vintage neon lighting that has helped form the iconic image of the city as the entertainment and lifestyle capital of America. The museum also incorporates the restored lobby of La Concha, in homage to this motel’s designer, Paul Revere Williams.

This respected African American architect is well known not only for his designs of movie stars’ homes in Southern California. His claim to fame also goes beyond designing high-end hotels as the designs of several landmarks around Las Vegas and Reno also came from Williams’ drawing boards.

Distinctive A-Frame Cathedral

Besides the 100-room La Concha Motel, Williams is also believed to be the designer of the Guardian Angels Church, which draws attention to Las Vegas Boulevard with its distinctive A-frame. Some of his lesser known works are the Las Vegas residences for the local African American community, which were built during the 1950s. Essentially, these are modest, ranch-style single family homes which Williams designed out of his strong sense of helping his fellow African Americans, according to an architect-historian, Allan Hess.

There are two neighborhoods in the valley which are thought to bear the handiwork of Williams. Actually, there may be three. Carver Park, a former neighborhood around Henderson downtown, was also said to be developed with Williams as the architect. Unfortunately, the Carver Park community no longer exists.

First African American Community in Las Vegas

One that remains and has become prominent is Berkeley Square in West Las Vegas which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. It is regarded as the first neighborhood in Las Vegas to be built for its African American community.

Named after an African American lawyer and newspaper publisher, Berkeley Square was populated by some well-to-do residents with two houses, with one kept exclusively for guests and for out-of-town entertainers.   To this day, Berkeley Square remains an important Las Vegas community. It has a high occupancy rate, and many of its residences are still occupied by the children of the original residents. It is rich with pride and history being the first Las Vegas African American community.

Williams’ craft is likewise thought to be behind the inexpensive homes in Basic Townsite, a small neighborhood surrounding downtown Henderson. The architectural style in this neighborhood appears similar to that of the homes in Berkley Square. Basic Townsite was also primarily developed for African Americans.

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