Whenever I exit the Boulder Dam Hotel through the side door near the restrooms and elevator, I get a laugh watching guests and visitors inspect the full wall photo mural with curiosity, awe, and even confusion. I guess there’s something to be said about a single photograph depicting a TWA plane, a few hundred men, and their horses right here in Boulder City. But, it’s about time to let everyone know what’s going on in this unusual photograph. But first… a little history.
Opened November 19, 1933, the Boulder City Airport, also known as Bullock’s Field, for the man who leased the land from the Bureau of Reclamation, was once known as the biggest airport in the West. At one time, it served as an operating ground for Grand Canyon Airlines, Transcontinental and Western Air Company, and celebrity Howard Hughes. Visitors from all over the country flew in to Boulder City Airport to experience Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, and Las Vegas, as it was the valley’s only airport with passenger flights.
During World War II civilian air traffic was severely constricted and the airport was used primarily as a layover site for military planes. After the war, Las Vegas became the main attraction for tourists, who now had their own new airport, McCarran, to fly into. Boulder City Airport significantly decreased their services when Bullock’s field was condemned in 1949 and then reopened under city control in 1961 after renovations were made. Construction of the New Boulder City Airport occurred during the early 1980s and ultimately, the historic Boulder City Airport closed down in 1990.
As you can imagine, being the most popular airport in southern Nevada had its perks. Celebrities and dignitaries from all over the world flew in to Boulder City and stayed right here at the Boulder Dam Hotel. As for the photograph in question, it depicts a celebration of sorts, explained through its caption: “The Inauguration of TWA service to Boulder City at the Boulder City Airport on April 3, 1938. Skies and ground were filled in celebration of the inauguration, with 3,000 people filling the streets of Boulder City and Bullock’s Field.” BCMHA 0190:0008