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The Moulin Rouge, the first integrated casino, was a first step for Vegas civil rights movement

(Bentai, 2013  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)
(Bentai, 2013 Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)
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Updated: 8/28/2013 5:07 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) -- On a day when the nation honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy, a very special piece of Las Vegas civil rights history is also remembered.

When the Moulin Rouge first opened in 1955, it was the first fully-integrated hotel-casino in the United States.

And it's that first step that helped the civil rights movement in Las Vegas. A blaze may have destroyed most of the building, but the fire and vibrant night life that brought blacks and whites together in west Las Vegas is far from extinguished.

As the first racially-integrated casino, the Moulin Rouge was host to celebrities like Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Donald O'connor, and Gracie Allen.

Many of these entertainers would head to the hotel for 2:30 a.m. performances. After their shows ended, it quickly became a place for both blacks and whites to enjoy Vegas-style festivities together.

In its prime, the Moulin rouge boasted an eye-catching showroom, swimming pool and bar.

In 1960, the Moulin Rouge hosted an historic announcement to desegregate the strip. But decades later, efforts to save the building would crumble. Over the years, many owners tried to renovate the hotel. In 2003, a fire nearly entirely gutted the property. Another blaze flared up in 2009.

Citizens and preservation groups tried desperately to restore the west Las Vegas icon of the local civil rights movement, but it was not to be. Safety concerns prompted city officials to allow the building to be torn down.

The Moulin Rouge is now history, but its legacy and message live on.

You can still find the iconic Moulin Rogue sign at the neon museum, and city officials say the vacant lot is all cleaned up and up to code.

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