The Last Nights at The Western

Brenda Ann Kenneally for TIME
Brenda Ann Kenneally for TIME
In November 2010, photographer Brenda Ann Kenneally spent 10 days in Las Vegas shooting the Western Hotel, which closed its doors this month.

A passerby near The Western makes her way down Freemont Street.

In the world of casinos, you don’t think of Mom & Pop joints, but of mega-sized names like Wynn, Trump and Caesar. Jackie Gaughn and the Western Hotel & Casino don’t usually come to mind. But for gamblers living along Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, the Western was an institution, and a cheap one at that: $1 shots, $1 Coors Draft, $1 craps, $2 blackjack.

A Week at The Western Hotel – Las Vegas, NV. from Facing Change on Vimeo.

When it was built in 1970, the Western was the country’s largest bingo parlor. It soon became the kind of place where all the regulars knew each other, like the gambler’s version of Cheers. But as Las Vegas became supersized, the Western slowly lost ground. Gaughn, who owned the Western since it opened, sold it in 2004. And as the rest of downtown Las Vegas was reinventing itself, the Western stuck out like a desert artifact—the same reason it remained popular among the hotel and casino’s loyalists.

In November 2010, photographer Brenda Ann Kenneally spent 10 days shooting the Western, capturing the colorful and eclectic characters within the hotel. “I felt as though I knew every one immediately though I had never been there before,” she says. But by Monday, the Western had closed its doors, its rooms boarded up and its casino floor silent. The closing will make way for further redevelopment of the Fremont East District. But it’s unlikely that Las Vegas will see the likes of the Western again. “I cried when I heard that it was closing,” Kenneally says. “It was a place that you were just happy knowing existed—like the world that could sustain a place like The Western was a better world.”

Brenda Ann Kenneally is a Brooklyn-based photographer and founder of The Raw File. See more of her work here.

Josh Sanburn is a reporter-producer at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @joshsanburn.

Related Topics: , , , , , ,

Latest Posts

The Decisive Moment by Henri Cartier-Bresson is back in print

The Return of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Decisive Moment

For 62 years, only the most fortunate of photographers and photo book collectors could peruse Henri Cartier-Bresson's masterpiece The Decisive Moment. This is about to change as German publisher Steidl is putting the finishing touches to the book's first ever reprint

Read More
A girl looks out from a sleeping compartment on a new train preparing to leave from Basra to Baghdad, the only passenger rail service currently operational in Iraq.

Photojournalism Daily: Oct. 22, 2014

Contrasto

How 12 Exhibitions, Two Museums and One Gallery Changed Photography Forever

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 17,616 other followers