Desert Inn 1950-2000

The Desert Inn was a hotel/casino that operated from April 24, 1950, to August 28, 2000. Designed by noted New York architect Jac Lessman, it was the fifth resort to open on the Las Vegas Strip. The property included an 18-hole golf course. Locals nicknamed the resort “The D.I.” or just “D.I.”

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The original name was Wilbur Clark’s Desert Inn. Wilbur Clark originally began building the resort, but when he ran out of money, the Cleveland mob led by Moe Dalitz took over the construction. Clark became the public frontman of the resort while Dalitz remained quietly in the background as the principal owner. Much of the financing came from the American National Insurance Company (ANICO), which at the time had indirect ties to the Cleveland crime syndicate and the Maceo crime syndicate in Galveston, Texas. The resort would eventually be renamed Desert Inn, and was affectionally called the “DI” by Las Vegas locals and regular guests.

The Desert Inn’s most famous guest, businessman Howard Hughes, arrived on Thanksgiving Day 1966, renting the hotel’s entire top two floors. After staying past his initial ten-day reservation, he was asked to leave in December so that the resort could accommodate the high rollers who had been promised those suites. Instead of leaving, Hughes decided to start negotiations to buy the Desert Inn. On March 1, 1967, Hughes purchased the resort from Dalitz for around $13 million. This purchase was the first of many Las Vegas resort purchases by Hughes.

In 1997, the Desert Inn went through a $200 million renovation and expansion, giving it a new exterior with white stucco and clay tile roofs. Its previous major renovation occurred during the mid-1970s. Unlike other expansions, the 821 rooms were reduced to 715 to provide extra accommodations. The Palms tower was completed and the lagoon-style pool was also added. The seven-story lobby with a vaulted ceiling and large windows was also a major part of the renovation. The hotel was owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide until 1998 and, during their ownership, the hotel became known as the Sheraton Desert Inn. It was also owned for a time by MGM Grand Inc. in the late 1980s.

On April 24, 2000, the Desert Inn turned 50 years old, and celebrated with a full week of activities. There was a celebrity golf tournament with Susan Anton, Robert Loggia, Chris O’Donnell, Robert Urich, Vincent Van Patten, Tony Curtis, Rip Taylor and various local dignitaries, celebrities and media. A time capsule was buried in a custom-designed granite burial chamber on April 25, 2000, to be opened on April 25, 2050. Three days later, on April 27, 2000, the resort was purchased for $270 million by Steve Wynn, who closed it several months later.

On October 23, 2001, the main tower of the Desert Inn was demolished to make room for a megaresort that Wynn planned to build. Originally intended to be named Le Rêve, the new project opened as Wynn Las Vegas. The remaining towers, The Palm and St. Andrews towers, were used as a small museum to display some of Wynn’s art collection and as offices for Wynn Resorts. It was closed due to poor ticket sales. The Palms and St. Andrews Tower were the last towers and they were imploded on November 16, 2004. The Palms tower was seven years old at the time.

Desert Inn Road, an east-west Las Vegas Valley roadway, still exists. It is the only major east-west surface street on the Strip that does not connect to Las Vegas Boulevard. As of 2008, there are no plans to rename the roadway.

Prior to completion of Wynn Las Vegas, the Desert Inn was the last Strip hotel with its own golf course. In fact, the Desert Inn had its own country club. When the hotel underwent a major renovation during the mid 1970s and reopened in 1978, the property was renamed the Desert Inn and Country Club. It featured full country club amenities open to guests of the hotel including a club house and tennis courts. People owned homes on the far end of the golf course. The large white Desert Inn and Country Club sign on The Las Vegas Strip which welcomed guests and players to the property was shown regularly on the ABC television program Vega$. Shortly after the show was cancelled, the sign was changed from white to red and only said Desert Inn – and Country Club was removed. The DI’s country club’s golf course became part of Wynn Las Vegas, after a rebuilding associated with the new resort’s opening.

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Links to following hotels:
Wynn Las Vegas



This article uses material from the Wikipedia article “Desert Inn”, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.