Martin Stern Jr.: The Architect Who Sculpted the Modern Vegas

Las Vegas, a city synonymous with glamour, entertainment, and architectural marvels. And one name, in particular, stands tall amidst the galaxy of stars that shaped this city: Martin Stern Jr. Hailed as the “father of the modern mega-resort,” Stern’s revolutionary designs laid the foundation for the iconic Las Vegas Strip we recognize today.

A Glimpse into Stern’s Journey

Born in 1917, Stern’s architectural endeavors began in Southern California. But it wasn’t until the 1950s that he found his true calling in Las Vegas, a desert town brimming with potential and the promise of transformation.

A Legacy of Mega-Resorts

Martin Stern Jr. introduced the concept of the mega-resort to Las Vegas, a combination of hotel, casino, and spectacle. This idea wasn’t just about creating a larger space; it was about crafting an entire experience. Each of Stern’s projects told a story, offering guests more than just a place to stay.

Some of his most notable contributions include:

  • The International Hotel: Presently known as the Westgate, this establishment once held the title of the world’s largest hotel. Elvis Presley played here for several years, adding to its legendary status.
  • The original MGM Grand: A catastrophic fire in 1980 might have marred its reputation, but it’s essential to remember the original vision Stern had for it – a vision of opulence, luxury, and sheer grandeur. Today, this structure lives on as Bally’s.
  • The Stardust Resort and Casino: Stern’s addition of the 9-story tower in the mid-60s was a significant move, making it the largest resort in the world at that time.

A Legacy Beyond Buildings

Stern’s influence went beyond erecting structures; he fundamentally changed the way people perceived Las Vegas. He turned it from just another desert town to a must-visit destination. His integration of resort amenities with gaming operations set a new standard for how casinos were designed and operated, blending both luxury and leisure seamlessly.

Looking Forward

Martin Stern Jr. passed away in 2001, but his legacy in Las Vegas stands tall and unwavering. The mega-resorts he pioneered set the stage for others to follow, and his influence can still be felt as you walk down the Strip.

As we continue our series on the architects and designers who shaped Vegas, stay tuned for our next installment. We’ll dive deep into the world of Joel Bergman, the protégé who didn’t just follow in Stern’s footsteps but carved a unique path of his own.