Remembering Architect Paul Revere Williams and his Iconic Las Vegas Designs

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Remembering Architect Paul Revere Williams and his Iconic Las Vegas Designs
Guardian Angel Cathedral // Photograph © Jon Estrada

Las Vegas is known for its castles, circuses and canals—impressive, but not exactly elegant design. However, one of the most sophisticated American architects of the 20th century did ply his trade in Sin City: Paul Revere Williams’ work encompasses the soaring sparkle of the Guardian Angel Cathedral and the cozy mid-century homes of Berkley Square.

Williams’ brilliance lay in his mastery of a variety of traditional architectural styles—Spanish colonial, French chateau, Western rustic, neoclassical—combined with a futuristic vision of monorails, dome houses and some of the wildest examples of Googie ever built. “He made the transition to modern design and developed a very convincing, well-executed modern architecture,” architect and historian Alan Hess says of Williams.

Williams also became the first African-American member of the American Institute of Architects in 1923 and the first African-American AIA Fellow in 1957. “He had an extremely successful career regardless of his race at a time when that made a big difference,” Hess says. “He was very dignified, very self-assured, but he was also very aware of the limits that the culture imposed on African-Americans.” ….