About This Place
Las Vegas is a city in San Miguel County, New Mexico, United States. Once two separate municipalities (one a city and the other a town) both named Las Vegas, west Las Vegas ("Old Town") and east Las Vegas ("New Town"), divided by the Gallinas River, retain distinct characters and separate, rival school districts. The population was 14,565 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of San Miguel County.
Las Vegas was established in 1835 after a group of settlers received a land grant from the Mexican government. The town was laid out in the traditional Spanish Colonial style, with a central plaza surrounded by buildings which could serve as fortifications in case of attack. Las Vegas soon prospered as a stop on the Santa Fe Trail. During the Mexican-American War in 1846, Stephen W. Kearny delivered an address at the Plaza of Las Vegas claiming New Mexico for the United States. In 1877 Las Vegas College, the precursor to Regis University, was founded in Las Vegas by a group of exiled Italian Jesuits. In 1887, Las Vegas College moved to Denver whereupon the name was changed.
When the railroad arrived in 1880, it set up shop one mile (1.6 km) east of the Plaza, creating a separate, rival New Town (as occurred elsewhere in the Old West; Albuquerque suffered the same inconvenience, for instance). During the railroad era Las Vegas boomed, quickly becoming one of the largest cities in the American southwest. Turn-of-the-century Las Vegas featured all the modern amenities, including an electric street railway, the "Duncan Opera House" at the northeast corner of 6th Street and Douglas Avenue, a Carnegie library, a major Harvey House hotel, and the New Mexico Normal School (now New Mexico Highlands University). Since the decline of the railroad began in the 1950s, the city's population has remained relatively constant. Although the two towns have been combined, separate school districts remain (Las Vegas City Schools and West Las Vegas School District).