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LOST VEGAS: The Lucky Strike Prospector Statues

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Posted on: January 1, 2024, 05:26h. 

Last updated on: January 1, 2024, 05:31h.

When the Lucky Strike Club casino opened in 1954, at 117 Fremont St. in downtown Las Vegas, two 12-foot prospectors stood guard from the top of its rooftop sign. Seventy years later, those statues are still around. They have survived three casino closures, a car accident, decades of desert sun and wind, and a fire.

But they won’t survive much longer.

The twin gold prospector statues kneel above the Lucky Strike Club sign in 1955. (Image: Hulton Archive via Vintage Vegas)

Golden Boys

The Lucky Strike Club was bought and demolished by the Golden Nugget in 1968, as part of a block-long expansion. (Image: flickr)

The prospectors were designed by noted wax artist Katherine Stubergh. Referred to as “America’s Madame Tussaud,” her work can be seen in the classic films Gone with the Wind (1939) and House of Wax (1953).

The sculptures were manufactured out of fiberglass by the YESCO sign company in their Salt Lake City factory and installed on the Lucky Strike sign with their own electrical feeds. When the sign was switched on at night, the prospectors jiggled their pans, which brimmed with lighted “gold,” from side to side.

In 1963, the property became just the Lucky Casino and the prospectors were placed in storage. Five years later, the neighboring Golden Nugget bought and demolished the property as part of a block-long expansion.

But the statues were safe. Since 1964, they had been serving as photo ops in front of the Fort Lucinda Casino. That was part of a ghost town theme park created as an expansion of the Gold Strike Hotel and Casino (today’s Hoover Dam Lodge). The town featured buildings relocated from the New Frontier casino’s Old West village.

The theme park never caught on, and the Fort Lucinda Casino reverted to the Gold Strike name in 1968. But that was a good day for the prospectors, who were placed back-to-back beneath the marquee of its new roadside sign.

One of the statues mines for photo ops at the short-lived Fort Lucinda ghost town theme park near the Hoover Dam. (image: over50vegas.com)

It was to be their happy home for the next 30 years.

When an accidental fire gutted the Gold Strike in 1998, its owners decided to relocate the miners to their other Gold Strike Casino, located 30 miles south of the Las Vegas Strip in Jean, Nev.

Gold Dust

And that’s where the statues sit today. They’ve been the victims of vandalism, extreme sun-bleaching, and one of their feet appears to have been run over by a vehicle. But they’re still there. Only now, they guard a sad, abandoned resort awaiting the wrecking ball.

The Gold Strike was acquired in 1995 by the company that became MGM Resorts. In 2015, they sold the resort to the Herbst family, which rebranded it Terrible’s, the same strange name used by the family’s convenience stores and gas stations.

Herbst closed the former Gold Strike during the pandemic and never reopened it — though its video sign still sadly flashes advertisements for long-expired specials.

YouTuber Sarah Jane Woodall keeps one of the miners company at the abandoned Terrible’s Hotel & Casino in late 2023. (Image: YouTube/Wonderhussy Adventures)

Among the prospectors’ only recent visitors has been the Wonderhussy Adventures YouTube channel, which specializes in rummaging through abandoned desert sites that have seen much better days. (Watch the video here.)

In 2022, the former Gold Strike was sold to Tolles Development, a Reno-based real estate company that, according to its website, plans to build a 2.84 million square-foot industrial center on the site and is currently advertising for tenants.

Tolles did not return Casino.org’s emails and voicemails seeking comment about its plans for the prospectors.

But their prospects don’t look good.

“Lost Vegas” is an occasional Casino.org series featuring remembrances of Las Vegas’ lesser-known history. Click here to read other entries in the series. Think you know a good Vegas story lost to history? Email corey@casino.org. 

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