In this daytime program, historian and preservationist Peter Moruzzi will explore the rivalry between Havana and Las Vegas for the title of “Monte Carlo of the Americas” before Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution occurred and removed Havana from the competition.
The author of the illustrated book, Havana Before Castro: When Cuba Was a Tropical Playground, Moruzzi notes the two locations were both alike and vastly different. Cuba was exotic, tropical, wild, and close by the eastern seaboard. Las Vegas was dry, dusty and remote. In Cuba, the Mob invested heavily in fabulous hotel-casinos such as the Nacional, Capri and Riviera. Some of these same investors were also among Las Vegas’s biggest boosters, including Moe Dalitz, Sam Tucker and front man Wilbur Clark.
This event is held in partnership with the April 28-30 Nevada Preservation Foundation’s Home + History Tour. The mission of the weekend is to celebrate Nevada’s history by fostering an appreciation of historic and important architecture within the Las Vegas Valley.
Peter Moruzzi, long-time historian and preservationist, is the author of the illustrated book, Havana Before Castro: When Cuba Was a Tropical Playground. As an architectural historian with expertise in the architecture of the Modern Movement, Moruzzi authored the successful nomination of the El Cortez Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas that was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.
After moving to Southern California in 1990, he led the successful effort to designate the Bob’s Big Boy restaurant in Burbank as a state landmark and coordinated the multi-year campaign to save the Downey McDonalds (1953). He was Chair of the Los Angeles Conservancy’s Modern Committee from 1992 to 1997, and a member of the Conservancy’s board of directors. In 1999, he founded the Palm Springs Modern Committee (PS ModCom), a historic preservation organization. For his efforts at preserving Modernist architecture in Palm Springs, Moruzzi received the presidential citation for public service from the American Institute of Architects’ California Council in 2002, the President’s Award from the California Preservation Foundation in 2012, and the UCLA Architecture and Urban Design Award in 2016.
He also conducts historic resources surveys, writes historic assessments and technical reports, conducts CEQA and NEPA analyses, and conducts plan reviews. For the National Register of Historic Places, Moruzzi authored successful nominations of the Case Study House Program, the architecture of Albert Frey, and the architecture of E. Stewart Williams.
In 2006, he produced Desert Holiday, a documentary chronicling the history of the Coachella Valley as seen through vintage postcards. Moruzzi is the author of the illustrated books, Palm Springs Holiday: A Vintage Tour from Palm Springs to the Salton Sea, Classic Dining: Discovering America’s Finest Mid-Century Restaurants and Palm Springs Paradise: Vintage Photographs from America’s Desert Playground. His latest pictorial history, Greetings from Los Angeles will be published in July 2017.