The OTHER opportunity (besides the Mark Twain Lecture event on Thursday) to see the Morelli House is this Saturday, October 24th from 10am to 3pm. 861 E. Bridger at the corner of 9th
The Morelli House is THE ICONIC Mid Century Modern Preservation project in Las Vegas. It’s the 1959 home of Antonio Morelli, the fabled house band leader from the Sands Hotel.
There’s plenty of pictures and lots history on the house and Antonio Morelli himself on the Junior League Of Las Vegas website.
Here’s the text of the historical overview from the Junior Leage website and a few pictures I’ve taken during my many visits:
The Morelli House, a classic example of Las Vegas mid-century residential architecture, was built in 1959 at 52 Country Club Drive in the prestigious Desert Inn Country Club Estates that overlooked the world-class Desert Inn Golf Course. In September 2001, Junior League moved the house to a parcel at Ninth and Bridger Avenue in order to save it from demolition so it could become a community historical cultural resource and the headquarters for the organization.
This was funded with the assistance of the State of Nevada Commission for Cultural Affairs and by generous community and member support. The Morelli House is listed on the State and City Registers of Historic Places and has been awarded the State Preservation Award(2007), the City Preservation Award(2007) and the Mayor’s Urban Design Award for Historical Preservation (2008).
Antonio Morelli, original owner and builder of the house, was the former Sands Hotel’s orchestra conductor and musical director. As a classically trained musician, he brought classical music to the area. He organized the first pops concerts in the early 1960’s and in 1969 initiated the “Antonio Morelli Friends of Music Scholarship” to assist UNLV music students, As the music director at the Sands, he came into contact with the top entertainers of the day including the famous Rat Pack. It has been reported that singers like Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Nat King Cole rehearsed in Morelli’s music room at the house.
Antonio Morelli chose a mid-century modernistic design for the house. He approached the Sand’s carpenter foreman, Richard Small, with his ideas. Together, over the course of two years, the two men designed and built the house. Las Vegas architect, Hugh E. Taylor, was engaged to draw the plans.
Mr. Kay G. Glenn purchased the home in 1978 from Antonio’s widow, Helen Morelli. Glenn had been Howard Hughes’ press secretary from 1951 until the millionaire’s death in l976. Mr. Glenn made only two changes to the house in the 22 years he owned it, and that was to change the paint color in two places. His excellent care and preservation of the home in its near original condition created a perfect historically unaltered example of mid century residential architecture.
On July 25, 2000, the Junior League had been in the midst of preparing to relocate and restore the historical Whitehead House to land it had purchased through state grants when it was burned down to the ground by vagrants. The League was then given a period of time to find another suitable historical structure before it had to sell the land and return the funds to the state. Knowing about the Junior League’s dilemma, Steve Wynn, who was buying the homes on the Desert Inn Country Club to make way for his new Wynn Resort, had The Molasky Group contact the Junior League about the Morelli House. The Morelli House had been identified by the UNLV School of Architecture as the house most worthy of saving in the Desert Inn Country Club Estates due to its classic mid century architectural design, superior workmanship and materials and historical provenance. The Junior League accepted the Morelli House donated by Mr. Glenn and it was moved to the land at 9th and Bridger that was originally purchased for the Whitehead House on September 30, 2001.
Over the course of several years, the Junior League raised more funds to rectify an expansive soil problem and settle the house on its new foundation and also applied for and received a final grant from the Nevada Commission on Cultural Affairs to complete the restoration. Once most of the critical and cosmetic repairs were made, the League held a public debut of the Morelli House on April 9, 2007. In January 2009, the League officially completed the restorations in accordance with the US Secretary of the Interior’s historical preservation requirements.
The Junior League provides public access to the Morelli House through pre-arranged group tours and through public open house and educational events throughout the year. For more information call (702-822-6536 or email [email protected]