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Boulder City and Hoover Dam

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Boulder City is an anomaly in Nevada. The small town seven miles southwest of Hoover Dam has a distinct center and architecture unified by the Spanish Colonial Revival style. The federal government and the Six Companies consortium of major western contracting firms (Utah Construction Co., Pacific Bridge Co., Henry J. Kaiser and W. A. Bechtel Co., MacDonald and Kahn Co., Morrison-Knudsen Co., and J. F. Shea Co.) designed and built the city to house construction workers near Boulder Dam (as Hoover Dam was originally named) between 1931 and 1935. Dutch-born city planner and landscape designer Saco R. DeBoer, known primarily for his design of parks and parkways in Denver, laid out Boulder City in civic, commercial, and residential zones, with a hilltop site for Bureau of Reclamation buildings. As a government town, Boulder City prohibited gambling and drinking, and remains today the only municipality in the state that prohibits gambling. Since it incorporated and received most of the townsite's property from the federal government in 1960, its residents have fought hard to retain a small-town character, partly by voting against proposed subdivisions.

Despite the loosening of the federal government's hold over the town, the Bureau of Reclamation maintains a strong presence through its supervision of Hoover Dam's operations. The bureau's offices are located in the old administration and dormitory buildings on the hill at the head of the city's central park. From there, the main roads radiate in a triangular shape filling the saddle between two hills. Along these roads are houses built for the managers and engineers of the dam project; downhill are more modest single-family houses, duplexes, apartments, and the commercial strip along the Nevada Highway. Many of the more than 400 structures erected by the federal government and the Six Companies consortium still stand, but about half of them have been altered over the years.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Julie Nicoletta

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