Tuesday, June 16, 1998 | 10:44 a.m.
Forty years ago, Don Belding struck gold when he discovered a crucial mistake made by the federal government.
Preparing for the construction of Hoover Dam in the early 1930s, the government set aside a swath of land along Lake Mead. But somehow it overlooked a small pocket between two mountains east of Boulder City.
The land was previously a mining claim owned by Las Vegas real estate entrepreneur Patrick Sullivan. The property was believed at one time to be ripe with gold and turquoise mines.
"That little bit of private land was still there, but the government didn't realize it," Dennis McBride, author of several books on the Boulder City area, said Tuesday. "The Belding family discovered this little island and bought the claim."
In 1958, despite Boulder City's initial refusal to pipe water to their new gambling hall, Belding and partner O.L. Raney opened the Gold Strike Inn. And in an attempt to keep up with the amusement park trend of the 1960s, the two changed the name of the casino to Fort Lucinda.
"That's when it took on the Old West theme," McBride said. "They had llama rides, a wax museum and a little train that went around the mountain. It was going to be much, much bigger, but Boulder City was so opposed to it."
When water became an issue, the casino cut back its plans and changed the name back to Gold Strike. It expanded in 1981 and again in 1983, which brought the room count close to 400.
In the 1990s, Boulder City residents formed a different opinion of the hotel-casino. Under the management of Tony Korfman, the Gold Strike became involved in the community.
"Gold Strike was very good about doing things for Boulder City charities," McBride said. "They would cater an affair or function and provide different things."
Ironically, Korfman retired in April, Belding died in May and a month later, the project the two men cherished was destroyed by fire.