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February 04, 2004

ALONG THE WAY: Heritage Museum


Clark County Heritage Museum

This is David Bert with another stop Along the Way.

Submitted for your approval, Heritage Street at the Clark County Heritage Museum on Bolder Highway in Henderson.

Dawna Jolliff, Curator of Exhibits, Clark County Heritage Museum... "On Heritage Street as you walk into the homes you step back in time, you become part of the exhibit, it's probably one of the few places where you can actually walk into an exhibit and feel like you're part of it. Therefore, you don't feel alienated by the time period, the artifacts... you become part of the exhibit."

Here on Heritage Street Curator of Exhibits Dawna Jolliff has created a microcosm of life in Clark County so realistic that it could be a set for the Twilight Zone. Unlike today's sterile housing developments, in this version of Las Vegas there are no cookie cutter houses. Each of the buildings along this street was constructed during a different decade and occupied somewhere else in Clark County before being moved here. But it's more than the variety of houses that gives this street its character. It's the total package. On the corner is a house constructed in the 1940s. To complete it there's a 1946 Plymouth Coupe parked on the street out front and a Victory Garden in the back. Farther down the road on the right is the old Gourmond House decorated with furnishings from the 50s complete with a 1959 Studebaker Lark under the carport, an excercycle on the porch, and small pink flamingo lawn ornaments. And at the end of this anachronistic cul-de-sac is a small neighborhood park complete with walking paths and a gazebo. As you walk down this street it feels alive even though no one lives here. At least no one that you can talk to.

Dawna Jolliff, Curator of Exhibits, Clark County Heritage Museum... "Yes, we have museum figurines, and we've tried to make them look as close as we could to what people would in that time period. And yes it might startle you if you come into the house and you actually see someone in the home, but I always feel that it gives a sense of belonging. That you've actually knocked on someone's door, and walked in and you're just visiting."

"When you walk into our homes we have recordings that come on with music from the time period, and then a little narration. So that if you don't want to read the text you would still get information on the house."

The information about the houses and the time period in which they were constructed is interesting, but the real fascination here lies in the remarkable attention to details you'll find in the furnishing of each house. Take for instance the Gourmond house. Although it was constructed in the 30s there were significant modifications made in the 50s.

Dawna Jolliff, Curator of Exhibits, Clark County Heritage Museum... "The furnishings are very very modern 50s furnishings. Any one that grew up in the 50s is going to love the home because they'll say 'Oh I had a lamp like that' or 'I remember a sofa like that'. And the colors. One of the things you'll notice, it's the most colorful house on the street. Color was a big deal in the 1950s. And every color that's in each room is exact colors that they would have had in the 1950s."

Each of the houses on Heritage Street is brought to life not just with furniture and color, but through the use of everyday items placed throughout the house. Little things like a box of Butternut thin sliced bread on the kitchen counter, or a Hoover stand-up vacuum in the laundry room, but these are generic reminders of a bygone era. At the Beckley House the recreation is far more precise.

Dawna Jolliff, Curator of Exhibits, Clark County Heritage Museum... "Because a particular family was associated with this home for its entire life we had photographs which we could work with to see what the home looked like. You will find Beckley memorabilia; a lot of family mementos in there... most of what you see inside is original to the family. They were kind enough to donate most of the original furnishings for the home."

It's hard to imagine that anything original still remains in Las Vegas. It seems that the moment something becomes old it disappears in an implosion of smoke and dust. That's why the Clark County Heritage Museum and Heritage Street in particular are so important. Regardless of whether you're trying to relive the history of Clark County or discover it for the first time you'll be hard pressed to find a betÇ"Ãqplace to encounter it. Either here, or in the Twilight Zone.

See discussion rules.


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