Meadows Club

The Meadows Club was one of the first casinos to open in Las Vegas in the weeks after the Nevada legislature legalized casino gambling in March 1931. In its early years, the Meadows, with its live entertainment and fancy interior, was regarded as the finest casino in Las Vegas, and it was a forerunner of the modern casinos that followed in the 1940s.

Tony Cornero, a gambler and former cab driver who had been convicted of illegal alcohol sales in California in the 1920s, had one of his two brothers, Louis, apply for the Meadows' gaming license from Clark County in early 1931, but the more experienced Tony would be the one to run their new nightclub.

On April 1, 1931, the county granted the Meadows a gaming license for two craps tables, two roulette tables, two blackjack tables, two poker tables, an English hazard game, a faro table, Big Six Wheel, and five slot machines.

The Meadows, named after the English translation of the Spanish "Las Vegas," debuted on Boulder Highway, near the convergences of Charleston Boulevard and Fremont Street, on May 2, 1931. While most other casino clubs in Las Vegas were small, saloon-like taverns, the Meadows Club was immediately considered the most attractive place in town, with its decorative casino and cabaret for a house band and traveling musical acts.

The Corneros spent $31,000 to build the Meadows and announced plans to add a fifty-room hotel, declaring their goal to make it the state's "finest resort." They brought in a producer with experience earned in New York and Hollywood who presented a floorshow called the "Meadows Revue," with a band from Los Angeles known as the Meadow Larks.

The brothers had decided to locate the club on the newly paved Boulder Highway, which was the main route into Las Vegas taken by workers from the Boulder Dam (now Hoover Dam) project at the Nevada-Arizona border. But the club also became a popular evening hangout for the city's dignitaries, such as Las Vegas Mayor Fred Hesse and his wife, Patricia, and its well-to-do citizens. It was the town's best nightclub, where men and women would dress in their best clothes.

In the early 1930s, the club's concert stage featured performers such as the Gumm Sisters, with a young girl named Frances Gumm, later known as Judy Garland.

Tony Cornero and his brothers built a single-story hotel beside the casino. But not long after its completion, a fire destroyed the casino, their biggest moneymaker. The hotel remained open, but the Corneros could not stay in business. They sold the property in 1935 to Dave Stearns, his brother Sam Stearns, and Larry Potter.

The new owners reopened the casino club later that year, but soon ran into trouble. The county had placed restrictions on female dancers in all licensed casinos that served alcohol. In November 1935, Clark County District Attorney Roger T. Foley claimed the club had ignored his warnings about permitting a woman to perform a "Fan Dance" (dancing nude or partially clothed under large feathered fans) in an "indecent manner."

In a compromise with county officials that prevented the Meadows from losing its license, Sam Stearns agreed to make changes the county wanted, and operate the casino himself.

But the Meadows never regained its early popularity. Under different ownership, it declined, operating only as a hotel. The hotel evolved into a notorious place frequented by prostitutes. It was finally closed down for good in 1942, as a local nuisance, in recognition of the growing presence of the military in Las Vegas at the start of World War II.

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