Historic Fifth Street School

Las Vegas, Nevada

Award Type: Honor Award

In 1936 – at the height of the Depression - the Spanish Mission-style grammar school on Fifth Street in Las Vegas opened its doors for the first time. Once a dusty outpost, the city was booming and the elegant school with trademark arches, courtyards, columns and walkways was a welcome refuge for the children of laborers who had flooded the city to construct the nearby Hoover Dam. Built before the advent of air conditioning, the school incorporated many features that helped provide natural cooling, including heat-resistant overhangs, 10-inch concrete walls and breezeways.    

In 1959, Fifth Street was renamed Las Vegas Blvd. and in 1966, after years of service, the school was closed.  In 2004, the Las Vegas Redevelopment Agency began an ambitious $13.4 million restoration project designed to return the building’s exterior to its 1936 appearance, while creating state-of-the-art interiors. In addition to new mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, the school’s mosaic tiles and decorative fountain have been painstakingly restored and all finishes returned to the 1936 color scheme. Completed in 2008, the revitalized building is now home to an assortment of local arts and architectural organizations.

“The Historic Fifth Street School, one of the only remaining intact Mission style buildings in the city, is a cultural oasis in a valley of high rises,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  “In a city where buildings are often demolished in their second decade, the restoration of the Historic Fifth Street School is a reminder that the past can play a vital role in a city’s future.”