Las Vegas Sun

September 22, 2021

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History of Henderson

1931 - Construction on Hoover Dam (called Boulder Dam from 1933 to 1947) begins on March 11. Jericho Heights, built two years earlier on what is now Henderson, becomes home for many dam workers.

1932 - Jericho Heights, which also is known as Pittman -- bounded by what today is Sunset Road to the North, Moser Street to the East, Merlayne Street to the South and Ward Drive to the West -- becomes Midway City. The Duck Creek School District, Henderson's first, is formed on March 28.

1935 - Hoover Dam is completed.

1941 - The 2,800-acre Basic Magnesium Inc. industrial plant is built to produce magnesium for munitions and airplane parts in Midway City, which was little more than a federal government installation. That included the houses built by the government specifically for the plant workers.

1942 - Midway City is renamed Henderson in honor of U.S. Sen. Charles Belknap Henderson and remains a federal installation. The first Boy Scout troop is formed and the first library opens. The Basic Magnesium plant opens. (At its peak, it employs about 14,000 workers.) Railroad Pass High School, the town's first, opens. Three years later the name is changed to Basic High.

1943 - Carver Park, a segregated section of Henderson, opens east of Boulder Highway on the north side of Lake Mead Drive in October. The 324-unit project is designed to house BMI's black employees.

1944 - The city's first post office opens.

1945 - World War II ends. Henderson Chamber of Commerce is established. As the demand for magnesium for war production diminishes, the U.S. War Asset Administration deems that Henderson is war surplus, setting the stage for the government to put it up for sale.

1947 - The War Asset Administration Office of Real Property Disposal produces the "Townsite Plancor 201-H" brochure, describing the for-sale city of Henderson as "a complete community establishment, providing housing and recreation for approximately 3,500 persons, based on an average of 3.48 persons per unit." On February 28 the Henderson and Las Vegas chambers of commerce invite Nevada legislators to spend a weekend in Southern Nevada to visit Henderson and consider taking action that would, in effect, buy it. Within days after the visit, the Legislature unanimously approves a bill giving the Colorado River Commission of Nevada the authority to purchase the city and magnesium plant. The Bill was signed by Governor Vail Pittman on March 27. The state, to both generate tax income and free the state from managerial duties, assigns a private organization, Basic Management Inc., to manage the old magnesium plant property, as well as acquire several thousand acres of undeveloped land and take control of the complex's utilities. The Adrian DominicanSisters purchase the city's first hospital, BMI Hospital, and rename it Rose De Lima, now St. Rose Dominican Hospital. (Today, the sisters operate two Henderson hospitals -- the St. Rose de Lima campus on the original site at 102 E. Lake Mead Drive and the Siena campus that opened in 2000 at St. Rose Parkway and Eastern Avenue. Combined, the facilities have more than 280 beds.)

1951 - The old government housing units are sold to individuals to use as private homes. The first issue of the Henderson Home News weekly newspaper is published.

1952 - On May 23, Basic Management purchases the plant outright from the state and takes over the mortgage payments to the the War Asset Administration. It paves the way for numerous industrial companies to operate on the site in the coming years, including Chemstar Lime, Inc., Kerr McGee Chemical Corporation, Pioneer Chlor Alkali Co., Inc. and the Titanium Metals Corporation (TIMET). (Note: The final mortgage payment would made by BMI to the War Assest Administration on April 20, l965.) The Rotary Club organizes Henderson's first National Guard unit, the 216th Transportation Company. Basic High moves to a new building at 355 W. Van Wagenen.

1953 - On April 16, District Judge A.S. Henderson, no relation to the man for whom the city was named, issues Henderson's incorporation decree for its original 13 square-mile site that includes Pittman and the original Basic Townsite, which is bounded by Boulder Highway, Lake Mead Drive, Victory Avenue, Van Wagenen Street, Tin Street and Ocean Avenue. Dr. J. B. French is elected the city's first mayor on May 23. The first town meeting is held on June 24.

1954 - U.S. Census figures show Henderson is America's fastest-growing city. Henderson's radio station, KBMI-AM, goes on the air in March. That same month, California Pacific Utilities completes the first natural gas pipeline from Arizona into Henderson. In June, entertainers Frank Sinatra, Sophie Tucker, the Ink Spots and others raise funds to help build the first recreation facility, the Henderson Youth Center, which would serve the community from 1956 to 1997. (It was demolished and the new Downtown Recreation Center was built on that site and dedicated on Jan. 10, 2003).

1955 - Henderson's first phone directory is published on Feb. 24. In September, the city's first municipal pool opens. Three years later the town's first park is built.

1959 - The Black Mountain Golf and Country Club opens as a nine-hole course on June 14. The second nine holes open five years later. (Today it is a 27-hole course.)

1960 - Basic High's football team wins the state AA championship -- the only Nevada gridiron title in the school's history. One team member was Glen Charles, who, with his brother, Les, went on to co-write the situation comedies "The Bob Newhart Show," "M*A*S*H," "Phyllis," "Taxi" and "Cheers." They each won five Emmys for "Cheers" between 1982 and 1991. Another member of the championship football team was Frank Schreck, who became a prominent Las Vegas attorney.

1963 - President John F. Kennedy on July 23 signs the Henderson Land Bill granting Henderson 15,000 acres, generally to the west of the city's original land, and doubling the city's size. On Sept. 9, Kennedy visits Southern Nevada and calls Henderson a "city of destiny."

1965 - The Nevada Legislature adopts into its state statutes the Henderson city charter.

1967 - Kerr McGee Chemical opens a Henderson plant that today produces large quantities of manganese dioxide, a powder commonly used in alkaline batteries.

1971 - Henderson becomes Nevada's first city to require developers to provide land for -- and help fund -- schools, parks and fire and police stations.

1972 - On Jan. 17, the city sells 4,700 acres of what then was known as "Section 25" to Las Vegas Sun Publisher Hank Greenspun, who then is approved by the City Council to develop on the huge parcel the master-planned community that would become Green Valley. Basic High moves from Van Wagenen to its present location on Palo Verde Drive.

1976 - During the nation's bicentennial, Clark County Heritage Museum opens in July on Boulder Highway.

1979 - O'Callaghan Park is built. It was named for two-term Gov. Mike O'Callaghan, a former Basic High teacher who today is chairman of the Las Vegas Sun. That year, Greenspun's American Nevada Corp. gives the city a park, beginning a tradition of developer-built turnkey parks.

1981 - The Las Vegas Downs dog-racing track opens on Racetrack Road off Boulder Highway, but would last only two seasons as nightly crowds diminished and operators were not able to secure a horse-racing season. Legendary candymaker Forrest Mars, one of the world's richest men, opens Ethel M Chocolates. The factory that produces premium chocolates -- including liquor-filled treats -- and its cactus garden remain a popular tourist attraction at Sunset Road and Mountain Vista Street.

1988 - Henderson voters approve the first park improvement bond of $4 million. On May 4, the Pacific Engineering and Production Co. of Nevada (PEPCON) plant, which produced ammonium perchlorate used in rocket fuel, explodes, rocking the valley. Two employees are killed, more than 350 injured and a neighboring marshmallow factory had to be rebuilt. More than half of Henderson's buildings suffer some damage and thousands of insurance claims are filed. The plant paid more than $74 million in settlements and later moved to Utah. Construction begins on a 2,300-acre residential resort subdivision, Lake Las Vegas.

1989 - The James I. Gibson Library is dedicated in April. In August, the Henderson City Hall opens at Water Street and Basic Road.

1991 - Green Valley High School, the city's second, opens.

1992 - The Arroyo Grande Sports Complex, touted as the valley's largest, is dedicated in February.

1993 - Veterans Memorial Wall is dedicated in November.

1994 - Henderson is declared America's fastest-growing city by the U.S. Census Bureau.

1996 - The Valley Auto Mall, advertised as the world's largest, opens in February. On Feb. 28, the Galleria at Sunset mall opens on Sunset and Stephanie roads, setting the stage for a multimillion-square-foot commercial corridor. In June the Black Mountain Recreation/Aquatic Complex opens. Clark County purchases Henderson's Sky Harbor Airport and renames it Henderson Executive Airport. It becomes a reliever site for McCarran International Airport, providing an alternate landing site for corporate jets and other smaller aircraft.

1997 - Henderson is named one of America's "50 Safest Cities." Voters approve a $54 million park bond issue to build five facilities and more than 350 acres of parks. On June 11, the first high-rise building, the Sunset Station, opens. On July 1, the City Council approves the Hillside Ordinance, protecting mountains from unsightly development. In August, Interstate 215 connects to Henderson.

1998 - The 147-acre Bird Viewing Reserve is dedicated on May 20 at the old wastewater reclamation facility near Boulder Highway and Sunset Road. The Reserve hotel opens in February on West Lake Mead Drive near a U.S. 95 on-ramp, but runs into financial problems and three years later becomes Fiesta Henderson, a Station Casinos property. Green Valley High's baseball program wins its sixth consecutive state title.

1999 - Henderson becomes Nevada's second most-populated city, passing Reno. The Parks and Recreation Department wins the national Gold Medal from the National Recreation and Parks Association for excellence in parks and administration of leisure facilities. In December, a second police station, the Green Valley Ranch Substation, opens. Foothill High School, the city's third, opens.

2000 - Two major aquatic parks open -- Mission Hills Park in June and Whitney Ranch Recreation/Aquatic Center in August.

2001 - Coronado, Henderson's fourth high school, opens. In March, the Las Vegas Sun moves from Las Vegas to a new three-story building on Corporate Circle, off the Green Valley Parkway exit of Interstate 215. The Green Valley Ranch Station Casino, featuring a 201-room hotel, opens across the highway from the Sun.

2002 - In June, the first show horse facility, Equestrian Park, opens. In September, the Henderson Pavilion, billed as the state's largest outdoor theater, opens. Green Valley High's girls golf team wins its 133rd consecutive dual match, setting a national record. The team also wins its fifth state title in 11 years. On Sept. 2, Nevada State College at Henderson opens its doors at 1125 Dawson Ave. with about 230 students.

2003 - Henderson Multigenerational Center, a huge recreational facility, opens on Feb. 7. Henderson annexes 5,458 acres of Bureau of Land Management land, preserving southwest entryway into city. (Today the city includes 96 million acres and has a population greater than 220,0000.) On April 16, Henderson celebrates its 50th year as an incorporated city. Liberty High School, the city's fifth, is scheduled to open in August.