Tuesday, Nov. 7, 1995 | 2 a.m.
With a shower of Hollywood fireworks, one big bang and a final earth-shaking thud, the Landmark hotel-casino and 34 years of checkered history crashed to the ground today.
The implosion of the Landmark, a world-recognized part of the Las Vegas skyline, marked the final episode in the life of a structure beset by debt, struggle and strife.
Controlled Demolition INC., the same company that recently demolished the remainder of the bombed-out federal building in Oklahoma City, laid the 356-foot Landmark tower to rest with a detonation of explosive devices at 5:37 a.m.
The 31-story hotel became the tallest reinforced concrete building ever brought down in North America, according to Mark Loizeaux, president of CDI. Worldwide, only CDI's implosion of the 361-foot Mendez Caldera Office Building in Sao Paolo, Brazil, in 1978 surpassed this morning's spectacle.
Upon detonation of the explosives - less than 100 pounds of dynamite situated in strategic locations throughout th structure's first four floors - the northwest half off the building swayed and crumpled to the ground in a heap.
As the first half of the tower crashed to earth, the second half of the tower fell in upon itself, folding like an accordion and producing a thunderous last gasp for life. A blackened cloud of dust leaped 150 feet into the air.
When the dust cleared, allowing the dawn's twilight to shine through, all that remained of the Landmark was a twisted pile of rubble and concrete. Gone forever from the Las Vegas
skyline was its once-tallest building.
"I thought it was awesome," said Lori Soza of Las Vegas. "It was definitely worth the two hours we waited."
Harvey Harman of Los Angeles thought the building hitting the ground felt like a small earthquake. "It was unbelievable," he said. "I've never seen anything like that in my life."
The implosion marked yet another milestone in the passing of old Las Vegas. Though beset by problems almost from the day ground was broken in 1961, the Landmark hosted some of the biggest names in entertainment.
Danny Thomas opened the hotel in 1969 and Bobby Darin made one of his last public appearances there. Elvis Presley was a frequent visitor to the Landmark, where even Frank Sinatra performed.
For nine years, billionaire recluse Howard Hughes owned the Landmark. Its opening on July 2, 1969, caused Hughes considerable anguish and led to a split with his right-hand man, Robert Maheu.
Frank Wright, curator of the Nevada State Museum and Historical Society, was saddened to see the demise of the Landmark, patterned after Seattle's Space Needle.
"I wouldn't rank the disappearance of the Bugsy Siegel suites at the Flamingo, which I think was far more significant," Wright said. "But I kind of hate to see it come down. It still represents what the Stratosphere represents, the biggest and the tallest."
the Landmark, purchased by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority in 1993, makes way for needed parking across from the convention center. Rob Powers, director of public relations for LVCVA, said the 20-acre site will provide 2,200 additional parking spaces. They should be ready no later than March.
"The land will also be used in some cases for an exhibition area," he said, adding that most of the material from the imploded Landmark will be recycled and used in other construction projects.
Randy Straff, director of marketing at the Debbie Reynolds hotel-casino, located just across Convention Center Drive from the Landmark, said the facility is looking forward to the new vitality the new space will provide.
"It's a shame the property never really clicked and made it as a free-standing casino," Straff said. "We just see it as a continuing evolution of the city's landscape."
Loizeaux said CDI had spent the past several days weakening the Landmark for the implosion. He said there were no blueprints of the building, which he described as unique. He said the building even harbored secret stairwells.
"We have learned everything as we have gone in," he said. "It was a very strange structure, very unique."
Demolition crews removed the last remainders of asbestos from the Landmark last week. After the low-rise buildings surrounding the tower were removed, workers spent the past few days drilling and prepping the tower for implosion.
"I thought it was neat," said Phil Nieto of Pheonix, who stayed up all night to catch the implosion. "I've never seen anything this big go off."