Friday, November 6, 2009

Pacing Main St W/One O' The Boyds

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...

...or this...

or 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!


Chris R said...

Main Street is one of the nicest looking casino's in Vegas. Plus getting microbrew beer while playing the dice is pretty neat as well. I hadn't realized half the stuff was originals.

Hmm, might just have to grab a pint there next week.

J.T. said...

Bill Boyd is quite a contrast to the late Ralph Engelstad. When I worked at the Imperial Palace, if you pointed out Engelstad or identified him by name, you could be fired.

Cush said...

I attended a slot tourney at Sams's Town celebrating their 30th Anniversary. As all of the participants entered the ball room for the prize distribution Bill Boyd was at the door and shook every hand and introduced himself.
I have spent way more money at Caesars and no one higher up than a cocktail waitress has every introduced themselves to me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for showing this to the people who have never made a trip to Main Street Station. Its one of my favorites too. The key thing is all these historic pieces are the real deal. In this day and age of fake marble walls and styrofoam architecture, all the stuff at the Main Street is the real deal. Nothing fake and pure class. Oh the good ol' days. Not sure if you seen it, but they have a brochure in the casino that highlights every historic piece in the hotel and its history.

On a side note, Caesars Palace used to have a similar brochure, I think I have it in my collection somewhere that highlighted all the sculptures when the place was built. Of course this was back in the late 60's when everything was real marble.

Dachime said...

You forgot to Mention the best thing about Main Street,.....Best Priced Buffet In Town if you want Really Good Tasting Food. (there are a few barely cheeper buffets around but none of those taste good.))I wish I could return to Vegas just for the Roast Beef at Main Street Alone. It was that good Last Visit!