Historic Walking Tour Guide
Railroad Ave., Lincoln Park, Douglas Ave. and 6th St. 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 town 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 price.
Las Vegas as a whole became an economic boom-town. Trade here earned the railroad $2,500,000 from shipping and $500,00 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.
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 Holiday, bought a saloon on Center Street (now East Lincoln) and fatally shot a man named Mike Gordon. Holiday 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.
Historic Railroad District
Lincoln Park Historic District
The city fathers of East Las Vegas, influenced by Eastern city planning, rejected the traditional Southwestern community plan nominated by the central Plaza, introduced by the Spaniards centuries earlier. Instead, on the flat terrain east of the Gallinas River, an orderly grid plan was established. The plan created two parks, Lincoln Park and Carnegie Park, located south and north (respectively) of the east side's main commercial avenue, Douglas Avenue. By 1882, East Las Vegas ("New Town") was transformed into a thriving community of several hundred permanent houses and commercial buildings.
Lincoln Park and Carnegie Park are two of the finest examples of 19th century landscape architecture in New Mexico. They exemplify principles of city planning developed by the French Beaux-Arts School; symmetry, and long vistas of green space terminating in a monument or building. (Incidentally, these principles governed the design of our nation's capital.) In both parks, sidewalks radiate outward from a central structure to the corners of the park in a symmetrical pattern. Tree and shrubs were planted in a linear pattern enhancing sidewalks.
On June, 23, 1899, Spanish-American War veterans, including former Lt. Colonel Teddy Roosevelt, camped in Las Vegas's Lincoln Park for the Nations's first Rough Rider Reunion. On the southwest corner of Lincoln Park, three great brownstone residences stand, a legacy of one of Las Vegas' pioneer citizens, James H. Ward. Ward's career as a contractor with the AT&SF Railroad brought him to Las Vegas in 1879 where he bought lots by Lincoln Park, which was be become one of Las Vegas' most fashionable neighborhoods by 1900.