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Past comes to life in Boulder City

Long before I ever had the notion of becoming a journalist, I wanted to be a paleontologist.

Like many children, I loved dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures. I read everything I could about them. Living in Los Angeles, I frequently visited the La Brea Tar Pits and even joined the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Even as recently as September, I became as giddy as a schoolgirl when I had the opportunity to visit Sue, the largest, most complete and best preserved skeleton of a tyrannosaurus rex at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. There I was, all dressed up for a gala evening, supposedly attending as a professional, and I abandoned all my colleagues so I could see Sue and take a picture. (OK, a lot of pictures.)

Though I eventually realized there weren’t a lot job opportunities for paleontologists and switched to journalism, I had already developed a deep love of history and museums in general.

You can only imagine the excitement I feel each day driving into downtown Boulder City. It’s almost like stepping back in time.

More importantly, it is home to the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum, housed inside the Boulder Dam Hotel, which is itself a beautiful piece of history.

I had visited the museum and hotel in early February and came away duly impressed. Sure, it is a little hokey in places, but it tells the story of Boulder City and the construction of Hoover Dam so well. It’s entertaining as well as informative. I especially like that there are so many hands-on and interactive exhibits.

If you haven’t visited, I highly recommend it.

Fortunately, it looks like the museum will be around for quite some time.

Last week we reported that the Boulder City Museum and Historical Association was bequeathed more than $100,000. The private donation will most likely be used to pay down the debt accumulated purchasing the building and making renovations to the restaurant, bringing the debt down to about a fourth of the roughly $800,000 original purchase price.

If you are looking for more history, head over to the Clark County Heritage Museum in Henderson, where Boulder City is featured fairly prominently.

Some of the museum’s exhibits are housed within a building, while the rest are situated throughout the grounds.

The interior exhibits take you from prehistoric times through the settlement of the area by American Indians and early pioneers, ranchers and farmers. It continues with mining, the construction of the Hoover Dam and the influence of casinos and entertainers. Also inside the museum is a gallery devoted to special exhibits, which is currently occupied by a display of baskets.

What I was most intrigued with was its Heritage Street of homes. The tree-lined street features six homes, as well as an old print shop, chapel and vignette devoted to mobile America with a motor court cabin and a Spartanette trailer. You could learn a lot about the area and progress by touring the homes that dated from the early 1920s to the 1950s.

Across from Heritage Street is an area featuring items related to travel, including a barn filled with various modes of transportation, train cars, a railroad cottage and ticket office.

One interesting exhibit was the Ore Creek Railroad, housed appropriately in the old Boulder City train depot. The G-scale model railroad was built by Norman “Gus” Gardiner, who died Sept. 18, 2007. He spent two years building the detailed vignette at his home in Boulder City after learning he had cancer. His family donated it to the museum after his death.

I guess, in my own small way, by reporting on what is happening in Boulder City, I am preserving and recording history in a different way. Maybe being a journalist isn’t that far of a stretch from being a paleontologist — except for the lack of dinosaurs.

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