Las Vegas Sun - History

June 24, 2019

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Battle-born Henderson now ‘A Place to Call Home’


A mail truck heads south on Boulder Highway Tuesday, March 13, 2001. The city's official slogan is, Launch slideshow »

The city of Henderson was born during War World II to produce adequate amounts of magnesium for military supplies, such as airplane parts. The Basic Magnesium Plant was built in 1943 in Southern Nevada, creating Henderson. The city was comprised of workers and engineers from the plant as well as their families.

But in 1947, less than two years after War World II, there was no need for the production of magnesium and a majority of the plant workers moved away, leaving the town nearly vacant.

Seeing a purpose for Henderson, the U.S. War Asset Administration offered it for sale as a war surplus property.

With strong efforts to save Henderson, the Nevada Legislature took a weekend to assess the potential of the city. The Legislature passed a bill, signed March 27, 1947 by Gov. Vail Pittman, giving the Colorado River Commission of Nevada approval to purchase the industrial plants, saving Henderson.

On April 16, 1953, Henderson was officially a city, electing its first mayor, Dr. Jim French, on May 23. The city was only 13 square miles and had a population of 7,410 people. The city slogan soon became "A Place to Call Home."

The city began to develop into what President John F. Kennedy called a "city of destiny" on his visit to Henderson. But on May 4, 1988, the peaceful city was shaken by the explosion of the Pacific Engineering and Production Co. of Nevada, PEPCON.

The rocket fuel factory caught on fire and caused several explosions. The explosions, comparable to 250 sticks of TNT, measured as a three on the Richter scale. People from miles away were able to feel and hear the explosion. The explosions killed two, injured 300 people and left the surrounding schools and businesses closed and the people of Henderson trembling.

As a result, Henderson was transformed from an industrial city into a residential community.

The city may never forget what happened that day, but that event has not stalled Henderson from growing into the prosperous place it is today.

The once small town on the verge of extinction is now more than 104 square miles in size with a population of 267,021.

The same town that once loudly protested the building of a casino in 1988 now holds several casinos including the Sunset Station, Green Valley Ranch Resort and the Fiesta Henderson.

Henderson has played set to several TV shows including "CSI: Las Vegas." The reality TV show "American Casino," which followed the lives of hotel managers and employees, was set at Green Valley Ranch Resort. The winner of reality TV show "Hell's Kitchen," was awarded a position of Head Chef at one of Green Valley Ranch's most prestigious restaurants.

In recent years, Henderson has received several honors including, 20th best city to live in the country according to Money magazine and in 2007 Prevention magazine named it the sixth most walk able city in the country, due to more than 37 miles of trails.

Within the city limits, there are 24 elementary schools, seven middle schools and seven high schools. Henderson is home to Nevada State College as well as the College of Southern Nevada's Henderson campus.

The residents of Henderson have expressed their desire to be involved in culture, such as "Shakespeare in the Park" which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2006.

The city may have started out as small town with a battle-oriented purpose, but has since changed into a family-oriented community that values its town slogan of "A Place to Call Home."

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