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Look Inside The Old Mormon Fort in Las Vegas – Just $3!

Key Points:

  • Home to the oldest standing structure in Nevada, the Old Mormon Fort offers both an indoor museum and outdoor fort recreation.
  • The indoor museum was what I found most interesting, shedding light on the historic site’s history throughout the years.
  • At only $3, the Old Mormon Fort should be slotted into the itinerary of folks with an interest in history.

When it comes to historic sites in Las Vegas, few have more significance than the Old Mormon Fort which was home to both the indigenous Paiute people and later, settlers of European descent who were attracted to the area’s water resources.

The Mormon Fort site was initially used by non-indigenous settlers around 1830 as a stop along the Old Spanish Trail to rest, recuperate, and hydrate.

In 1855, members of the Mormon Church inhabited the site and built a fort with the intent of aiding travelers and being missionaries to the local indigenous population. The Mormons finally ditched the fort in 1857 due to hardships faced.

The Old Mormon Fort changed hands several times over the years that followed and boasted notable owners like Octavius Decatur Gass and Archibald Stewart, who ran the ranch until his death in 1884 when his wife Helen Stewart took over.

Although inexperienced as a businesswoman, Helen successfully ran the ranch on her own for nearly 20 years until she eventually sold the land to the railroad in 1902.

Even after selling the Mormon Fort site to the railroads, Helen stayed involved in Las Vegas politics and is now regarded as “The First Lady of Las Vegas”.

The Fort turned ranch was used over the years to follow for other purposes including as a resort and as a cement testing lab for the Bureau of Reclamation during the construction of the Hoover Dam.

Today, the Old Mormon Fort is a Nevada State Park, and an adobe building within it is the oldest standing structure in the entire state.

You can see a video detailing the site’s full history on the State Park’s website, here.

I thought it would be fun to swing by the historic site, which is located just 1.5 miles (a 5-minute drive) from Fremont Street, with the intent of sharing my experience with you!

Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort Cost

Entry to the Old Mormon Fort costs a mere $3, and parking is free in the lot out front.

Tickets are only available in person.

My Experience at the Old Mormon Fort

The Old Mormon Fort opens at 8 am, and I was waiting for them to unlock the doors at that time like it was Black Friday.

I was the first visitor of the day, ponied up my $3, and got the lay of the land from the sole employee.

Before diving in, let me just say that the employee I interacted with was amazing. She was obviously passionate about the subject matter and wanted to ensure I had a great experience, explaining how to attack the museum and throwing out all sorts of amazing facts and tidbits of information.

As an admitted history nerd, I had plenty of questions and she was enthusiastic about answering them.

The Indoor Museum

The experience started indoors where I learned about the Old Mormon Fort’s past. Information was communicated via informational stations, artifacts, dioramas, and placards.

Museum Displays inside the Old Mormon Fort.
A museum display depicting Las Vegas current status as a gaming and entertainment mecca.

One of the coolest aspects of the museum portion of the experience were the model reconstructions of the fort site, showing what it looked like at various points in history.

A small reconstruction of what the fort looked like when the Mormons occupied the site.

After I perused the indoor museum, I was ushered into a room that played a video that detailed the Old Mormon Fort’s history before heading outside. Like the museum that preceded it, the video presentation was both informational and entertaining.

A room with about 15 chairs facing a TV screen that is playing an informational video.

The museum and video education served as a great appetizer considering I had little knowledge of the fort’s history going into the experience.

The Outdoor Fort

Even though it was early in the morning, the sun was strong and I could already feel the daytime heat setting in.

Standing there, I really tried to imagine what it would’ve been like to be an early settler at the fort, surviving in the middle of the desert without the aid of nearby civilization.

It was surreal to recall the hardships, isolation, and discomfort that people once experienced in this exact spot.

While the majority of the fort that can be seen today is a reconstruction, the adobe building (pictured below) is original.

The structure, which was built in 1855, has seen several renovation and restoration projects throughout the years but is still standing today as the oldest standing structure in all of Nevada.

Inside, some of the building’s original walls are visible providing a window to the past.

Exterior of the adobe building, which is a basic rectangular shape, one story tall, and has windows down the side of it.
Another angle of the adobe building's exterior. The nearest corner is damaged and patched up with white plaster.

Inside the adobe building are artifacts and placards that describe how the building had been used over the years. These walls have seen a lot.

Long skinny interior of the adobe building at the Old Mormon Fort. On either side of the room are informational placards and artifacts.
An educational room in the adobe building that educates on the first Las Vegans. On the wall is the first American Flag that flew over Las Vegas on July 4, 1855.
That’s the first flag that flew over Las Vegas on July 4th, 1855.
A mocked up living area in the adobe building.
A living area mocked up in the adobe building.

While I found the historic adobe building to be the most interesting part of the Old Mormon Fort, the rest of the recreation was also interesting and thought-provoking.

Here’s a look around:

Crumbling exterior walls surrounding the Mormon fort site.
A gun slit in the wall looking out over the landscape beyond the fort.
A single decaying covered wagon bakes in the desert sun inside the fort.
A guard tower rises above the walls in the corner of the fort.
The spot where the Stewart Ranch House once stood, marked with stones that are a recreation of the foundation.
Where the Stewart Ranch House once stood.
2 decaying wagons inside the fort.
The Mormon Fort's guard tower and walls viewed from the outside.

Uniquely, they even recreated the stream that was the reason for the fort in the first place.

A recreated stream with a bridge crossing it.

The Verdict: Is the Old Mormon Fort Worth a Visit?

At only $3, the Old Mormon Fort is an incredible value for those who have an interest in the history of Las Vegas, or history in general.

The indoor museum and video portion of the Old Mormon Fort did a fantastic job of educating me on the fort’s history before letting me explore outside. Before visiting, I didn’t realize there was an indoor museum component, however, it ended up being one of my favorite parts of the experience.

As someone who enjoys being in the places where history happened, I enjoyed my time at the Old Mormon Fort. The fort’s story is legitimately interesting, and the State Park did an unmatched job of telling it.

Conveniently, the Old Mormon Fort is only 5 minutes from resorts along Fremont Street by car.

If you’re a history buff and want to take advantage of one of the cheapest things to do in Vegas, add the Old Mormon Fort to your itinerary!

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Sunday 14th of May 2023

Beautiful! I am very interested in studying more about this topic and found that the location was open to the public. Thank You.

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