|Boulder City History
by Dennis McBride
Boulder City Auto Court
From its earliest days Boulder City was meant to cater to the tourists who would come to see Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. One of the first permits the Bureau of Reclamation issued, in fact, was to William Goodrich who wanted to build what then was called a “tourist camp.” Tourist camps, also known as auto courts, provided small cabins where tourists driving their cars on vacation could pull in and stay. These camps sometimes included a common wash house, shower rooms, and restaurants. They don’t much exist anymorebut Boulder City’s first tourist camp, the Boulder City Auto Court, still exists and is still operating today as the Nevada Inn at 1009 Nevada Highway.
Goodrich, who built a small filling station on the highway, broke ground for the tourist camp on a hill behind the gas station on September 12, 1931. The camp was finished and open for business by November with 30 stucco cabins and a small store attached to the filling station. The auto court was among the earliest businesses in town to have telephones.
The Boulder City Auto Court was the first business anyone saw on their way through town to the dam. Workers coming into Boulder for the first time who didn’t yet have a place to live, often rented a cabin at the auto court until a house was ready for them in the city. It was an intimate little neighborhood on the hill with a sweeping view of Eldorado Valley. The people who lived there held block parties, celebrated birthdays together, and had barbecues and farewell parties when families moved on into town.
Because there were yet no commercial buildings in Boulder, businessmen opened their first offices at the Boulder City Auto Court. The town’s first chiropractor, H. G. Pugh, shared space at the auto court with Boulder’s first dentist, Dr. Paul McIntosh.
Clarence Watson, an original investor, later owned or was a partner in the Boulder Dam Hotel, the Black Canyon Motel, and the Nevada Rexall Drugstore. Leonard Atkison ran the gas station, then later owned the Nava Hopi Shop and Desertwear; Don Belding and Orin Raney, who bought the gas station from Atkison, were later partners in the Gold Strike Inn. The auto court store, in fact, became a famous Boulder City landmark known as the Little Store, and the 1930s was noted as the best place to find a glass of cold Coors for a dime.
In the 1950s the auto court became the Brown Derby Motel. The Little Store was demolished in 1967 to build a 7-11, which now is Doug Scheppman’s insurance office. About half the auto court’s cabins were torn down in 1968, replaced by a new motel office and several fourplexes. The Brown Derby became the Nevada Inn, and even though it was expanded and renovated several times afterward, several of the original little Boulder City Auto Court cabins remain to remind us of what it used to be.
Sponsored by the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum.