post

70 Years Ago in Las Vegas: Little Church of the West

Roy Rogers would still feel comfortable at the Little Church of the West seventy years after he ushered at the first wedding held there.  Although the buckskins draping the windows have been replaced with lace and brocade curtains, the small chapel still exudes a rustic charm reminiscent of pioneer days on the range.

The historic building was originally part of the Western theme park at the Last Frontier Hotel.  It is an exact, half-size replica of a church built in a California mining town in 1849, right down to its shingled roof, redwood interior walls, and nineteenth century hanging lamps long since converted from gas to electricity.  To the right of the entrance there is an antique Davenport desk circa 1860 atop of which a desk lamp with a green glass shade emits an antique, golden glow.  Across the aisle, as modern needs dictate, there is video recording equipment.  The hardwood benches look just as uncomfortable as they have always been, but Las Vegas wedding ceremonies rarely last long enough for that to make a difference.

As Las Vegas casinos and hotels have gotten bigger and condominiums have taken over any empty space, the Little Church of the West has been forced to move three times. Today it is located past Mandalay Bay, so far south it is almost off the Strip.  Yet this location affords it an attractive setting surrounded by green grass and trees, enough land for an outdoor gazebo, and plenty of guest parking.  Presumably, the traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard fifty feet away can’t be heard when the chapel doors are closed.

It wasn’t the first place to welcome out of town guests looking for a place to tie the knot.  That honor goes to The Wedding Chapel at 513 South Fifth Avenue, before Las Vegas Boulevard was so named, in 1933.  It was the residence of the Reverend J.D. Foster, the man behind the idea.  Offering convenience, Foster promised in an interview, “We [will] never close.”

Today, contrary to popular belief, most chapels are not open 24 hours a day seven days a week. Even on weekends, most of the freestanding ones lock their doors at midnight, if not earlier.  The Little Church of the West is no exception.  Business just isn’t what it used to be.   But the chapel accepts reservations for every half hour from 8 AM to 11:30 PM.   Don’t be late, or you’ll miss the 20-minute ceremony.

To put you in the mood – for fooling around or getting serious – listen to Mark Nevin sing “This Little Church,” on his music video, a collage of wedding scenes, movie clips, and singing nuns.  It’s corny, but classic Vegas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2IXpeupIbc

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: