Place

Harrison’s Guest House

single story house with a brick and metal fence and low hanging eave over front entrance
Harrison’s Guest House

Photograph by Courtney Mooney, courtesy of Nevada Historic Preservation Office

Quick Facts

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2016, Harrison’s Guest House is significant for its use as an African American boarding house in Las Vegas, Nevada. Like many of Las Vegas’ African American residents, Genevieve Harrison arrived in the 1940s as defense industries attracted her and many other Americans throughout the country to new communities where defense-related facilities were located. At the beginning of WWII, Harrison relocated from Texas to Nevada to take advantage of what she saw as an economic opportunity to offer housing to the wartime laborers as well as Black entertainers performing at the nearby casinos and resorts.

The house commonly provided accommodations to Black entertainers and divorce-seekers, and some of the twentieth century’s leading African American entertainers in Las Vegas and on the Las Vegas Strip, including Nat King Cole, Pearl Bailey, and Sammy Davis, Jr.. During and after the Second World War many African Americans who moved to Las Vegas faced racial segregation as a matter of law and social practice. Boarding houses became one of the few options available for African Americans who were new arrivals to a community or were traveling through the region. In Las Vegas, a section of the town referred to as Westside developed as a distinctly African American neighborhood during the 1930s and 1940s.

Boarding houses like Harrison’s arose from a nation-wide need to house traveling African Americans in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In cities across the country, segregation in public accommodations required the creation of separate facilities and social networks to inform travelers of those facilities. Despite the need, accommodations were notoriously limited throughout the country into the 1950s, especially in the West, and continued to be limited until the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. In many communities, boarding houses provided the only overnight accommodations available to African Americans traveling between cities in the West. Throughout the western United States, boarding houses such as the Harrison’s Guest House that addressed this need were often in low-income areas that suffered from neglect. Redevelopment has changed many of these neighborhoods and many former boarding houses have been demolished. Harrison’s Guest House stands as the only known example of its type remaining in Las Vegas, and potentially the only remaining guest house in Nevada.

Link to file on Harrison's Guest House

Last updated: August 9, 2021