Compared with Las Vegas, Henderson is a newcomer in southern Nevada. It began as Basic Townsite, a suburb for workers at the Basic Magnesium plant. Contractors for the federal government constructed the plant in 1941 to produce magnesium—the main ingredient of incendiary bombs—from magnesite and brucite, mined in Gabbs 300 miles to the north. The abundant water and energy supplied by Hoover Dam made the Las Vegas area an attractive location for wartime industries.
Workers were in such short supply during the war that African Americans from the South were brought to Henderson to work at Basic. Because of the company's segregation policies, in 1943 it established a separate townsite, Carver Park, to house African American workers; others lived in Las Vegas's Westside. One-story buildings of wood or concrete accommodated families in one-, two-, or three-bedroom apartments and single workers in dormitories. The complex, designed by Paul Revere Williams, an African American architect in Los Angeles, was demolished in 1974.
Until recently, Henderson, incorporated in 1953, retained its blue-collar industrial image because of its association with Basic and companies that subsequently used the complex. In the past two decades, however, Henderson, like many other Las Vegas–area communities, has grown rapidly, expanding its middle- and upper-class neighborhoods through the development and construction of planned districts, such as Green Valley and Lake Las Vegas. The small company town has evolved into a city of over 100,000 residents. From 1990 to 1996, Henderson was the nation's fastest-growing city, and is expected to surpass Reno as Nevada's second largest city in the next few years. Gaming corporations have also discovered Henderson as a place to build casinos aimed at a burgeoning local audience rather than the international clientele catered to by the larger, more opulent casinos along the Las Vegas Strip. In recent years Henderson has seen the construction of several casinos along the “Boulder Strip”—the nickname for Boulder Highway, connecting Las Vegas and Boulder City via Henderson.
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