Casino mogul Steve Wynn's acquisition and remodeling of the Golden Nugget in the 1980s marked a shift in the public's perception of downtown Las Vegas as the shabby sister of the Strip. Although Fremont Street had developed as the earliest center for gambling in the city, by the 1970s and 1980s many visitors rejected this area, which had grown rather rundown, for the more glamorous attractions of the Strip.
Although it had gained a hotel tower in 1976, by the early 1980s the Nugget retained much of its original appearance, based on what architecttural critic Alan Hess calls the western vernacular of San Francisco during the Gold Rush—the Barbary Coast style. The casino's large corner sign, designed by Kermit Wayne of the Young Electric Sign Company in 1957, had become famous for its rococo forms, dominated by a large outward bulge at the bottom and scrollwork on top. The interior contained heavy draperies, glass globe chandeliers, ornately carved wood furniture, and paintings of nudes. The “Vegas Vic” sign added to the Pioneer Club in 1951 remains as an example of Fremont Street's former enthusiasm for the frontier look. Although this look had set the standard in the 1940s and 1950s, by the 1980s it was long out of date.
To effect the Nugget's transformation from a Barbary Coast–style club to a sleek, modern casino, Wynn's architect, Fred Doriot, removed the Golden Nugget's rococo sign and sheathed the exterior in white and gold. Doriot designed a tower for suite and spa accommodations in 1976; a third tower, designed by Joel Bergman, was erected in 1984. The main entrance corner still displays a Golden Nugget sign, but its letters curve in an arch against a gold background. Large arched windows covered with white awnings punctuate the exterior walls along Fremont Street and Casino Center Boulevard. The interior is similarly streamlined. The success of the Nugget's makeover in attracting new business has spurred the owners of neighboring casinos to remodel their buildings, giving Fremont Street a fresh appearance.