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Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort

Las Vegas Mormon Fort-9

Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort

Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort Overview

Built by Mormon missionaries in 1855, the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort is the first permanent, non-native settlement in the Las Vegas Valley and one of the oldest settlements in Nevada, which features the historic remains of an adobe fort. While called a fort, it was never home to any military troops but like many Mormon forts in the southwest, it provided a defense for the local settlers against an Indian attack. It also served as the midpoint on the trail between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Los Angeles, California as a way station for travelers.

As a result of the beginning of the Utah War, the Mormons abandoned the fort.

The fort walls and building did not weather well over the year and the remnants of the original eastern wall and southeast bastion (a fortified area to position for firing) are located in what is now Downtown Las Vegas. In addition to the fort, which contains a multitude of historic artifacts, a Visitor Center contains exhibits and photos that illustrate the history of the site. Experts have used historical records to restore parts of the fort.

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Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort History

The site of the fort is along the area where a spring-fed creek flowed through the Las Vegas Valley, which created an “oasis in the desert.” The area was used by the native Paiutes along with travelers who were going between the Old Spanish Trail to California.

Pottery shards, stone tools, and projectile points of both Anasazi and Paiute origin have been found through Archeological excavations of the fort with a high concentration of artifacts uncovered directly north of the northeastern fort bastion, suggesting the presence of a campsite that was intermittently used for centuries prior to the arrival of Euro-Americans.  

The original construction was by using adobe bricks and, when completed, consisted of four walls 150′ long and 14′ in height, two bastions, and a row of two-story interior buildings.  


The ownership of the fort and surrounding land has changed hands many times over the decades and it had several close calls with destruction.

  • 1821 – Rafael Rivera, a scout who was helping open a trade route between Santa Fe and Los Angeles recorded the name of the expanse as The Meadows or, in his native language, Las Vegas.  
  • 1844 – John C. Frémont labeled it Las Vegas Springs on his maps of the area and Frémont took a route to Utah which he dubbed the Spanish Trail in that report
  • June 14, 1855 – Orginal fort was constructed along the creek and comprised of an adobe square-shaped enclosure that was 150′ long and 14′ tall on each side with towers at the NW and SE corners by William Bringhurst and 30 of his fellow Mormon Missionaries with the assistance of the local Paiute 
  • May 1857 – July 1858 – Utah War is also known as Utah Expedition, Utah Campaign, Buchanan’s Blunder, the Mormon War, or the Mormon Rebellion
  • March 1857 – Crop failures, disappointing yields in nearby lead mining efforts, and dissension among the group’s leaders caused the settlers to abandon the fort 
  • 1860 – A small detachment of U.S. Army troops was assigned to protect the settlers at the fort
  • 1861 – The fort was used as a store for travelers by Albert Knapp
  • 1865 – Octavius Gass, purchased and occupied the site to be used as a ranch and started the irrigation works, renaming the area Los Vegas Rancho (later renamed Las Vegas in 1902)
  • 1881 – Gass defaulted on a loan to Archibald Stewart and lost the ranch, with Stewart and his wife Helen becoming the new caretakers 
  • April 1882 – Archibald Stewart and his family relocated from Pioche to oversee Los Vegas Ranchos
  • July 13, 1884  – Archibald Stewart was killed in a gunfight by a neighbor at the Kiel Ranch, leaving his wife Helen (who was pregnant with their 5th child)  in charge of the property (she tried to sell it and was unsuccessful)
  • 1929 to 1931 – The site played a part in the construction of Hoover Dam when the Bureau of Reclamation leased the adobe building and used it as a concrete testing laboratory
  • 1955 – The land was acquired by the Las Vegas Elks
  • 1971 – The City of Las Vegas purchased the property to begin a preservation effort
  • February 1, 1972 – The fort was listed on the National Register of Historic Places 
  • 1989 – With the support of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, the city of Las Vegas acquired the fort
  • 1902 – William A. Clark’s San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroad acquired the property from Helen Stewart along with most of what is now downtown Las Vegas, transferring most of the company’s land to the now-defunct Las Vegas Land and Water Company
  • 1991 – Long-term protection was gained when the state acquired the site as a state park 
  • 1997 – The site is memorialized with a tablet erected by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with Nevada Historical Marker #35, and two markers placed by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers.
  • 2005 – A $4.5 million renovation and visitor center, designed by assemblage studio, was completed in 2005

Related Article >> Morman Station State Park


Area Size

3.16 acres


1,923 ft


  • 500 E. Washington Ave. Las Vegas, NV 89101
  • 702-486-3511

GPS Coordinates

36°10′50″N 115°08′01″W 

How to Get to Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort

  • From the Fremont Street Experience, head northeast on North Main Street toward East Ogden Avenue for 0.7 miles.
  • Make a right onto East Washington Avenue and the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort will be on your right.

Hours Open

 Tuesday – Saturday 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (last admittance 4 p.m.) Closed Sunday & Monday


Museum admission: $3.00 (children 12 and under are free.)


Information about program scheduling may be obtained from either park staff or kiosks. Upon request, special presentations can be arranged for groups.


There are numerous picnic tables located within the park. Restrooms are available, along with a Museum and a Gift Shop.


The park is located in the Las Vegas Valley which is part of the Mohave Desert. The native vegetation consists of the Creosote Bush plant community, however, historic land clearing activities have destroyed the original desert vegetation. 


No dogs are allowed in the park, except for service animals.


Those with developmental and/or physical limitations are invited to enjoy all of the recreational activities of Nevada State Parks. If you would like to request additional support or accommodations, please call the Nevada State Parks division office. 


Bicycling inside the park is not allowed.


Removing, disturbing, or damaging any historic structure, artifact, rock, plant life, fossil, or other feature is prohibited. State and federal laws protect this area and its resources.


It is the only U.S. State Park located in a city that houses the first building ever erected in that city.

Additional Photos

Las Vegas Mormon Fort-6
Old Las Vegas Mormon State Historic Park, Las Vegas, Nevada
Old Las Vegas Mormon State Historic Park, Las Vegas, Nevada

Old Mormon Fort, Las Vegas, Nevada (6)

Resources Used

Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort