Friday, November 6, 2009
Last week, I tagged along with Boyd Gaming founder and Executive Chairman Bill Boyd as he walked one of his properties shaking hands with as many employees as he can find. I had heard he does this regularly, so I wanted to shadow him and did so for this week's Las Vegas Weekly column, which is up now.
While this bit of feel-goodism made for a fine column, I was actually almost as fascinated by the property we toured as by the folksy millionaire making nice with the charges: Main Street Station.
This is not one I have given much thought to since I was a reporter at the Review-Journal in the late 1990s and we would frequently grab lunch at the brew pub because it was near the office. Never, in all those visits, did I notice this...
What I'm trying to show is that 400-room Main Street Station, sitting alone at the northwest corner of what most people consider the downtown Vegas cluster of hotels, is a surprisingly -- possibly bizarrely -- fancy facility. It started life as Church Street Station, a Vegas version of a similarly ornate resort in Orlando, and Boyd Gaming bought it once it was in bankruptcy in the mid-1990s. They renamed it Main Street Station and left most of the design features intact.
Its prior owners invested heavily in adornments, woodwork and antiques. But this being a Vegas casino -- and an unimpressive-looking one in a distressed section of the city -- it is easy to assume these are garish knock-offs. Yet the railcar really was used by Buffalo Bill, the street lamps really did come from 1870s Brussels, the chandelier really was brought over from the Figaro Opera House in Paris and this wild boar behind the bar really did once stand sentry at a public fountain in Nice, France:
I didn't get a good shot of it, but even the gaming tables have some beautiful carved-wood bodies and stands. Oh, and yes, that mosaic-colored rock behind these urinals in the men's room off of the casino actually is a part of the Berlin Wall:
Dunno -- don't WANT to know -- what lurks in the ladies room.
One of the sad parts of the place is that some of its more interesting features aren't really used by the public. There's a second floor that's no longer accessible to guests with these gorgeous pool tables just sitting there:
And the economy has shuttered the Pullman Grille, leaving undiscovered such treasures as these doors removed from George Pullman's mansion in Prairie, Ill.:
So it was kind of a treat to wander the place. They even have a printed self-guided tour to all the antiques and such all over the place.
Not to mention, the place seems to have something else that has suddenly become classic: coin-in slot machines. No, really. Check this out:
When was the last time you saw stacks of these in a Vegas casino?
There were a couple of behind-the-scenes bits that didn't make it into the column, of course. I also found the employee break area kind of funny to look at:
Boyd went in the shake hands with the guys and oddly remarked at how nice it was that they had stools upon which to put their feet.
And since Main Street and the California are joined by a pedestrian bridge and the Cal is known as a haven for Hawaiian travelers who fly in on Boyd's charter flights, it is the rule that employees who have any responsibilities at the Cal wear uniforms that include...
...Hawaiian shirts! Love that!