08/13/14

Las Vegas’ historic Kiel Ranch nearly lost

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A piece of Las Vegas history sits in ruin—The Kiel (aka Kyle) Ranch. Established in 1875, it’s one of the first ranches born in the Las Vegas Valley. Today, trash and weeds conceal it, a chain-link fence encloses it, an industrial area surrounds it, and the City of North Las Vegas owns it.

The only evidence of the ranch’s historic value and presence is a concealed historic marker posted on the corner of a fence behind some sprawling trees at the intersection of Carey Avenue and Kiel Way. The sign reads:

Kyle (Kiel) Ranch
Established by Conrad Kiel in 1875. This was one of only two major ranches in Las Vegas Valley throughout the 19th century. The Kiel tenure was marked by violence. Neighboring rancher Archibald Stewart was killed in a gun fight here in 1884. Edwin and William Kiel were found murdered on the ranch in October 1900.

The San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroads purchased the ranch in 1903 and later sold it to Las Vegas banker John S. Park, who built the elegant white mansion.

Subsequent owners included Edwin Taylor (1924-39), whose cowboy ranch hands competed in National rodeos, and Edwin Losee (1939-58), who developed the Boulderado Dude Ranch here, a popular residence for divorce seekers.

In the late 1950s, business declined and the ranch was sold. In 1976, 26 acres of the original ranch were purchased jointly by the City of North Las Vegas and its bicentennial committee as a historic project.

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Nearly 40 years after the ranch was placed on the National Register of Historic Places (October 1975) and after a 1976 dedication program to commemorate big plans to develop the historic park, this remnant of Las Vegas history sits hidden, deteriorated and concealed from the public. While the ranch rests seemingly abandoned, the city of North Las Vegas approved a development and preservation plan in 2010 and plans to turn the site into a public park. Once a 240-acre homestead, only 7 acres remain in the enclosed parcel between Losee Road and Commerce Street. The deficit from the 1976 purchase was sold off in 1988 and now encompasses the Kiel Ranch Industrial Park, home of Vegas Foods, a towing company, recycling center and other businesses.

A chain-link fence surrounds the south and west sides of the ranch site.

A chain-link fence surrounds the south and west sides of the ranch site.

Obscured by its surroundings—the thick brush, fence and industrial buildings—an adobe structure still exists, and it’s one of the oldest buildings still standing in Nevada (completed in 1856) This hidden historic oasis also contains a cottage—the divorce-seekers’ dwelling—springs, a natural artesian pond, a cottonwood tree grove, fruit trees and plant species found only in the Las Vegas Valley.  

An adobe structure, one of the old standing buildings in Nevada, still sits surround by brush and trees.

An adobe structure, one of the oldest standing buildings in Nevada, still sits surrounded by brush and trees.

 A weed-and-garbage-filled parking lot stretches west of the area. The fenced-off lot is all that’s left of the former development plans.

A parking lot intended for visitors sits abandoned on the northwest corner of the property.

A parking lot intended for visitors sits abandoned on the northwest corner of the property.

The “elegant white mansion,” once the centerpiece of the ranch, is long gone—victim of a suspicious fire in 1992. A family cemetery also sat on the ranch site. Not part of the City’s original acreage, the graves were exhumed for intended relocation to a City-owned part of the park. Because the intended plans never materialized, to this day the Kiel family still rests filed away in UNLV’s forensics lab. 

The Kiel family cemetery was once located at the south end of the ranch.

The Kiel family cemetery was once located at the south end of the ranch.

The remaining buildings show evidence of some restoration progress. Both received new roofs in recent years and a supportive structure that once propped up the adobe has been removed. 

Divorce seekers used to hold up in the cottage, referred to as the "Doll House." Previously, this may have been the Kiel children's play house.

Divorce seekers used to hold up in the cottage, referred to as the “Doll House.” Previously, this may have been the Kiel children’s play house.

So, all is not lost. I have hope that the city will not engulf yet another piece of its fading history, but embrace it instead. A drive in the area will yield barely a glimpse of the roof tops, but the green oasis stands as obvious tribute to what’s left of the spring-fed ranch. Please note, I climbed atop the boundary wall—not over it—to get a better view of the property, which is off limits to the public. As a rock climber, this wasn’t difficult for me, but I highly discourage others from doing this.

A new roofs appears recently installed on the cottage.

A new roof appears recently installed on the adobe.

The red roof on the cottage appears relatively new.

The red roof on the cottage seems relatively new as well.

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The green, spring-fed oasis fills the area behind the north wall.

Cattails mark evidence of the artesian pool onsite.

Cattails mark evidence of the artesian pool onsite.

The last-standing building sit just behind the east wall, hidden from view.

The last-standing buildings sit just behind the east wall hidden from view, as water from the spring seeps into the street.

To learn more about Kiel Ranch’s history, visit the City of North Las Vegas and the Preservation Association of Clark County.

A 1974 aerial view shows the 26-acre Kiel Ranch parcel.

A 1974 aerial view shows the 26-acre Kiel Ranch parcel. -from the UNLV special collections library

The adobe structure as it appeared in the early 1900s.

The adobe structure as it appeared in the early 1900s. -from the UNLV special collections library

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