District Three — Railroad Avenue, Lincoln Park & Douglas-Sixth Street Historic Districts: As the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe (AT&SF) Railroad steamed into Las Vegas on July 4, 1879, hundreds of new citizens descended on the City of the Meadows.
Overnight, a new town was born a mile east of the Plaza populated by families, merchants, professionals, desperados and dance hall girls, all hardy pioneers seeking their fortunes. Several thousand people came to Las Vegas that year, making it one of the largest towns in the Rocky Mountain West, rivaling Albuquerque, Tucson, and El Paso in size. At first a town of tents and sheds, the new town, “East Las Vegas,” was laid out within six months and lots were sold at a brisk pace.
Las Vegas as a whole became an economic boomtown. Trade here earned the railroad $2,500,000 from shipping and $500,000 from passengers between 1886 and 1891. The railroad provided jobs for track construction, maintenance and locomotive crews, and headquarters officials, as well as seasonal employment in the ice industry.
By 1881, the Las Vegas Street Railway was operating horse drawn streetcar service between the train depot and the Plaza, west of the Gallinas River.
Not only a bustling mercantile center, the railroad district also boasted hotels, saloons and dance halls with notorious characters to match. In 1879, Dodge City’s most famous dentist, Doc Holliday, bought a saloon on Center Street (now East Lincoln) and fatally shot a man named Mike Gordon. Holliday returned to Kansas the following year.
The railroad brought modern technology to Las Vegas through improvements in communications and transportation, and new building materials and designs. Local businessmen and professionals installed telephones in their stores and offices the same year the railroad came to town. By 1881, the Las Vegas Street Railway was operating horse drawn streetcar service between the train depot and the Plaza, west of the Gallinas River. The most visible legacy of this technology can still be seen in the use of fired brick, structural cast iron and pressed metal in “new” construction.