whilst in vegas, we headed to glitter gulch. the former hot-bed of scintillating sin which made vegas famous. in a nutshell, the ‘old’ downtown is where it’s all reported to have started. think back to the lore of the golden nugget, the silver palace, and fremont street.
many of the original hotels met their demise, but a few years ago a conglomerate of current hoteliers got together and bought up a chunk of fremont street with the idea of preserving the old and revitalizing the area. they named it the fremont street experience.
why ‘fremont street’? well, let me tell you. fremont was john c fremont. a man who i have since learned was a pioneer in more ways than one. he was born in savannah, georgia in January of 1813. a son born out of wedlock, which back in the day was considered a “social handicap”. how does one overcome such an ailment? marrying the senator’s daughter, of course.
he was an explorer, military officer, math teacher and the first candidate of the anti-slavery republican party for the us presidency who ran his campaign under the slogan ‘free soil, free man, and fremont’. he lost the election to buchanan when the dems warned that his election would ultimately lead to civil war. depending on who’s writing the tale, fremont is portrayed as controversial, impetuous and contradictory; while others depict him as a military hero responsible for significant accomplishments born of his ambition.
he was the first american to lay eyes on beautiful lake tahoe (word of advice from myself: go see it! and ski there if you can.) and spent time mapping volcanoes like mt saint helens. leading a group for the us army corps of engineers, he made his way into vegas in may of 1844 while it was still part of mexico. during his expeditions, fremont collected a number of plants – many of which are named after him: flannelbush (fremontodendron californicum), pincushion flower (chaenactis fremontii), barberry (mahonia fremontii), and monkeyflower (mimulus fremontii).
each year the football teams of un-lv and un-reno play for a trophy, the fremont cannon, which is a replica of the cannon reportedly to have accompanied fremont through his 1843/44 expeditions of oregon, nevada and california.
after investing over $77 million, the fremont street experience is housed under an enormous metal canopy. at night they light it up with a light show. and, offer people an opportunity to take a quick ride on a zipline down the center of the canopy. it’s a night time destination, but we checked it out during the day because we had plans that night.
there was stuff to see.