It’s hard to believe a city like Las Vegas has Mormon roots, but it’s true. On June 14, 1855, Mormon missionaries arrived to build a fort along a creek that flowed from Las Vegas Springs. Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Historic Park preserves what’s left of the oldest building in the city and tells the story of its first settlers. The park is open from Tuesday to Saturday and charges admission of US$1 (as of November 2017).
Outside the entrance to the visitor center is a monument to Helen Jane Wiser Stewart (1854-1926), the First Lady of Las Vegas. She moved there in 1882 and sold 1,834 acres of her ranch in 1902. That land became the city of Las Vegas. Stewart played an important role in the development of the city until her death.
Once inside, you can go through a small museum with displays on the beginnings of Las Vegas and a scale model of the fort.
Outside of the visitor center, you can walk through what’s mostly a replica of the original fort. A plaque stands next to the walls commemorating the first Las Vegas Post Office, which was on the site.
A small building to the left contains the last surviving bricks of the original fort built between 1855 and 1857. Items that would have been used during that time period are on display. Nearby is a sign indicating the spot where Helen Stewart’s ranch house once stood until the 1960s.
The replica walls and gates of the fort tell the story of US Army soldiers living at the fort between 1867 and 1869. The Army was sent to protect the settlers in 1860, and a display shows how they might have lived at the time. During the Civil War, the fort was called Fort Baker.