Boulder City Magazine® April 2007 Issue
|Boulder City History
by Dennis McBride, Boulder City Museum &
Arches and Arcades
When city planner Saco DeBoer designed Boulder City he was mindful of how miserable summer heat could be and advised stores and shops in the business district be fronted with arches and arcades over the sidewalks to protect shoppers from the sun and to encourage walking. As Boulder City’s new business buildings went up, their arcades provided shady, inviting spaces.
Boulder City Magazine®
|All the buildings along Nevada Way between Wyoming and Arizona Streets had arcades with beautiful signs painted on them; buildings facing east or west had canvas shades that could be pulled down to block the sun as it traveled overhead. The Boulder Theatre and Uptown Hardware Store and Apartments at Hotel Plaza, as well as the little shops along Wyoming Street at Avenue B had arcades. It was possible to stroll several blocks in Boulder City in the shade except when crossing streets.
By the end of World War II, however, Boulder City’s characteristic arches were considered quaint, clunky, and obscuring. Merchants worried if shoppers couldn’t see their merchandise from the street they wouldn’t come in. Buildings built in the historic district in the mid- and late 1940s either had no arcades or had flat roofs held up over the sidewalk with skinny metal pipes. By the early 1950s, business owners began demolishing their arches. The Green Hut Cafétoday’s Coffee Cupthe Boulder Drugstore at 521 Nevada Way, and the Men’s Store at 525 Avenue B were among the first to go. Manix Department Store’s arches with their inlaid tilesAce Hardware nowwere torn out. A few businesses along the west side of Nevada Way refused to go along: what are now Reynolds Dolls, Tony’s Pizza, and Back in Thyme still have their original arches.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that Boulder City businesspeople developed a change of heart and recognized the practical and aesthetic value of the town’s arches. The new Traphagan Building on the corner of Avenue B and Wyoming Street in 1996 was the first to include arches in its design [but no arcade to protect shoppers from the sun]. Over the next several years other new and remodeled buildings in the historic district included arches and arcades: the City Center and Chamber of Commerce buildings; Milo’s Best Cellars; the Six Company Visitors Bureau [arches onlyno arcade]; and the Big Horn restaurant [which didn’t have arches originally]. Ace Hardwarethe former Manix Department Storerebuilt its arches very closely to their original design. The Farmer’s Insurance Group at 521 Nevada Waythe former drugstorepartly replaced its arches, as well.
Visitors to Boulder City today appreciate the comfort the city’s arches and arcades provide and while this unique architectural characteristic has been somewhat restored, there’s still a long way to go before we fully recover the charm we threw away.
Sponsored by the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum.
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