The lights are out and nobody is coming back except for the implosion.
Although there is no obvious connection between Oceanside and Las Vegas, a housing tract that was built in the early ’60s was laid out on nine streets named after Las Vegas casinos.
Last month, Riviera Drive lost its corresponding Vegas landmark when the bankrupt Riviera hotel and casino closed for good after 60 years. “The Riv” was featured in 1960s Rat Pack tribute movie Oceans 11 as well as Showgirls and Casino (both 1995) and Vegas Vacation from 1997.
The Riviera’s now vacant 23-story, 2100-room hotel and casino will be blown up in spectacular fashion later this year, according to a spokesman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau who says it will make room for an expanded convention center.
The choreographed destruction will follow the well-publicized implosion of other fabulous Las Vegas fun meccas, such as the Hacienda, Frontier, Sands, and Dunes. Those casinos are gone. But their memory lives on residential street signs in Oceanside’s Valley of the Dead Casinos (usually known as San Luis Rey Valley).
The casino-street houses are about one and a half miles west of the Mission San Luis Rey on Mission Avenue. Two other Oceanside streets adjacent to Las Vegas Drive — Mint Place and Sahara Place — have also seen their street names lose their Sin City relevance when their namesake casinos built in the ’50s were swallowed up by companies who then changed their names.
Currently, just Tropicana Drive and Flamingo Drive are the only two of Oceanside’s nine casino streets with a modern-day Las Vegas connection.
Most Oceanside streets have traditional themes, such as states, cities, presidents, and lilting Spanish phrases. So, what was Oceanside’s casino connection?
Kristi Hawthorne is the vice president for events for the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce and has written extensively about Oceanside’s past. She says she found a newspaper article from 1961 that announced the planned development just off Mission Avenue called San Luis Rey Estates, which included the casino streets.
Hawthorne says the first proof she could find of a completed casino-street home was in 1963. “Back then it was the developer’s domain to name the streets,” says Hawthorne. “A lot of times you will find streets named after the kids [of developers].”
Hawthorne says the answer probably lies in the fact that Sproul Devleopment, which built those San Luis Rey Estate homes, was also building homes in Las Vegas at that time.
“I just think that was the height of the Rat Pack era. It was just the romance of Las Vegas at that time.”
Oceanside’s unofficial historian is John Daley, owner of the 101 Café who has archived many of the photos of old Oceanside. He says he doesn’t know anybody from back in the day who still lives on a casino street.
“But if my memory is correct,” says Daley, “[country singer] Barbara Mandrell lived on Riviera Drive. She graduated in my [Oceanside High] class of 1967.”