The Morelli House
Original Date Visited: 5/11/13
Notes: I would have never known this marker existed without the help of fellow marker hunter Dave Morris. Dave unknowingly found himself in this neighborhood just south of the Fremont Street Experience whereupon he saw a metal plaque fastened into a stone wall of the historic Antonio Morelli House. Without question, Dave stopped to see if the marker was anything of interest and to his surprise, the number popped out clear as day ... "State Historical Preservation Office, State Historical Marker 270." A new state marker! Dave immediately snapped a few pictures and whipped me an email.
It's frustrating knowing that several new historical markers have been found by the public over the past few years. I wandered upon  in Ely having to learn about this new marker through extensive web research. Then, I was invited to a new marker debut on March 31, 2011 ... not by the SHPO, but by Mark Strumble of the BLM Office of Carson City. A few months ago, a local Henderson native came upon the new version , a former MIA that had been missing for decades now newly-constructed in a suburban park. But I can't stop there. The only number missing is  and I'm beginning to think it's certainly out there. Considering the inconsistency in marker debuts and manufacturing (in lieu of the budget cuts no less!), I'd like to think the State Marker Program is starting to bounce back. This is even more apparent because these new markers were found statewide and not just in one general region. Our biggest pet peeve is that we (the general public) are kept in the dark and are required to somehow stumble onto them without a fleeing thought.
Finding this marker is quite easy, albeit, it requires a bit of patience and quick navigation on some busy downtown city streets. This location is a few short clicks from the Vegas' "Spaghetti Bowl," the largest freeway connection in Nevada. The bowl is the meeting of I-15, I-515, and US 93/95 just north of downtown. Hop out of the bowl and exit onto North Las Vegas Blvd from I-515. From here, continue south (six blocks) to Bridger Avenue, which is two blocks south of Fremont Street. Turn left (east) onto Bridger and continue four blocks to the Morelli House on your left. Look for the giant "Morelli House" stonework located right at the street corner. (The intersection here is E. Bridger and S. 9th Street.) If you're coming from the south, you can drive the entire length of Las Vegas Blvd to Bridger Avenue on your right. This would avoid the freeways and the sometimes nerve-racking spaghetti bowl, but it would also force you through the Vegas Strip. Either way, a second set of eyes would be helpful in terms of navigating this busy area of the city. Once here, find the plaque/marker itself cemented on the right hand side of the front door of the building. Since the plaque cannot be seen from the street, you must park and get out to view this interesting plaque. The City of Las Vegas has completely restored the inside of the house so try to arrive during one of the guided tours in the summer.
Researching the Morelli House
This marker is an amazing find thanks to one passionate marker quester. Here is a copy of the email that fellow marker hunter Dave Morris sent to me in the spring of 2011 -- a long and very detailed result of some intense research he came up with.
An impressive list to say the least? US Congress, US Senator, City of Las Vegas Mayor and the SHPO. But the one that jumped out at me was the State of Nevada Preservation Award presented by the State Historical Preservation Commission on May 2, 2007. The marker may have not been placed at that time because the final restoration of the project wasn't completed until 2009. Therefore it's safe to assume that  is at least 4 to 6 years older than its dedication. Here's a little more on the house. The Morelli House started out as the Whitehead House, a historical mansion built by Stephen Whitehead in 1929. In 1997 a land development company offered to donate the place to the JLLV and the catch was that they would have to it off of its original site and it was then the JLLV saw a potential historical preservation project for their organization. The house was moved to a temporary site located on 10th Street, between Fremont and Carson Street and it sat for about a year and a half while the JLLV searched for a piece of land in the historical district. And a week before it was to be moved to its final location in late July 2000, vagrants entered the structure and started a fire that burned the Whitehead House down.
So the Commission on Cultural Affairs met with the JLLV and asked them to ascertain if the Whitehead House could be structurally restored and the answer that came back from the city engineers was that the Whitehead House could not be salvaged, it was a total loss. Then Steve Wynn announced that he was buying the homes at the Desert Inn Country Club Estates for demolition to make way for his new resort. He heard about the destruction of the Whitehead House and contacted the JLLV about the Morelli House at 52 Country Club Lane in the Desert Inn Country Club Estates. The UNLV School of Architecture had determined that the Morelli House was the house most worthy of saving in the Desert Inn Country Club Estates because of its classic mid century architectural design, its near original condition, and the provenance associated with its original owner, Antonio Morelli, who was the musical conductor for the Sands Hotel Copa showroom orchestra from the mid 1950s to the early 1970s. So it was moved from its original location in September 2001 to 861 East Bridger Avenue, where the Whitehead house would have been. And a new problem occurred, before the Morelli House could be relocated, an expansive soil problem was discovered which had to be rectified before the Morelli House could be placed on its foundation. The house was finally put in place in the fall of 2002 ... Sorry to drag on with this, I told you there was a vast amount of data on this one. I hope this might shed some light on SHPO's thought process... Well maybe not, but at least it gives you an insight on the true story behind HM #270."
In a nutshell, the process of creating a plaque representative of such a stately and heavily campaigned historical site was single-handedly funded by the city of Las Vegas. In the entirely of Dave's email, there is no mention of the SHPO. It still seems the SHPO is trying to cut costs to find other forms of funding for their program. Of course, the only thing missing, once again ... is an update to their website informing the general public of a new addition to the marker system! Such marker promotion would vastly improve the oh-so important factor of public awareness. No doubt, the public would appreciate it.
The Morelli House is a classic example of Las Vegas, mid-century residential architecture. It was built in 1959 by the Sands Hotel orchestra leader, Antonio Morelli, and his wife Helen. Originally located at 52 Country Club Lane in the former Desert Inn Country Club Estates, now the Wynn Resort, the modernistic house then featured an open plan that integrated interior, and exterior spaces, natural materials, and the latest innovative home appliances. In 2001, the Junior League of Las Vegas relocated the Morelli House to its present site and completed the restoration in 2009.
Listed 2001, Nevada State Register of Historic Places.
Listed 2007, City of Las Vegas Historic Property Register
This historic preservation project was funded, in part, by the Nevada Commission for Cultural Affairs and through generous donations from the Las Vegas community and members of the Junior League.
PONY EXPRESS TRAIL (SESQUICENTENNIAL)
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