From the very beginning, Boulder City has welcomed guests. In the 1930s during the building of Hoover (Boulder) Dam, it was host to many government officials and others who were involved with or interested in the construction of the dam.
The Boulder Dam Hotel was built in 1933 to accommodate the growing number of tourists who came to Boulder City for that purpose. The hotel was built to offer the best in hospitality, with a rich, warm interior and rooms that offered private baths, a feature that made it very popular with visitors. During the past few decades the hotel has had its ups and downs, but it is back, with its original charm restored, for the visitors who continue to flock to “the city that built Hoover (Boulder) Dam.”
While the hotel hosted visitors beginning in the mid-1930s, the attraction of the dam, Lake Mead and Boulder City to an ever increasing number of travelers prompted the building of motels along U.S. Highway 93 leading into the city.
Providing evaporative coolers and, later, swimming pools, Boulder City’s motels also offered the best in hospitality and were often filled to capacity during holiday seasons and special events. When travelers were faced with “no vacancy” signs all the way into town, many people in Boulder City welcomed stranded visitors into their homes and rented them a room for a night or two. If a family needed a babysitter for an evening, so Mom and Dad could have a night out, a local teenager was there to watch the kids. The hospitality of Boulder City was appreciated by the many visitors who stayed here.
Boulder City offered its hospitality in other ways over the years, as well. One very special example of this, in the late 1950s, involved the teenage son of a family who was staying in Boulder City during the summer holiday enjoying a day at the beach at Lake Mead. Before the city had a municipal swimming pool, Boulder Beach was where families and tourists went to enjoy the lake, to picnic, sunbathe and swim.
There were rafts in the water on which to lie and soak up the sun — two near the beach in shallow water and two further out in deep water for swimmers and divers. There was a lifeguard on duty, but he wasn’t able to stop the teenager in time to prevent him from diving off the raft in the shallow water. The young man was taken to Boulder City Hospital with serious injuries where he stayed until he could be taken back to his hometown by his family.
A caring, proactive staff member at the hospital called a bunch of Boulder City High School students, who came daily to his bedside to keep the injured teenager company while he lay helplessly in a hospital bed in a strange town. Boulder City is, and has always been, a generous community.
Boulder City is no longer the small town of approximately 5,000 it was in the 1950s, but it remains a city of hospitality with its parks and picnic benches, shady streets and welcoming businesses. There is a restaurant for every taste and budget; there are antique shops through which to stroll; there is the Boulder Dam Hotel with its museum, shops, art gallery and ambient elegance.
There are many welcoming churches for those who are in town on a Sunday and want to attend a service. There are events in Bicentennial Park featuring fine art and high-end crafts; experiences in food, from barbecue to October Fest; shows for antique car enthusiasts; and events at Boulder Theatre, to consider just a few. There is almost always something going on that brings people to Boulder City.
Groundbreaking for the Boulder City bypass, Interstate 11, was held April 6. It’s a mixed blessing for Boulder City — no more traffic jams on busy weekends but will there be fewer visitors? Let’s hope not, but rather than thinking of it as a “bypass,” perhaps it should be thought of as an easy drive from the Phoenix area to Historic Boulder City — an easy drive to a city that offers unique experiences for visitors, with an added extra helping of very special hospitality.
Susan Stice McIntyre is a native of Boulder City, a first-generation 31er, and former member and chairman of the Boulder City Historic Preservation Committee.