How Did Las Vegas Residents Keep Cool Before Air Conditioning?

13 Jul

How Did Las Vegas Residents Keep Cool Before Air Conditioning?

Summer in Vegas is definitely a force to be reckoned with. Every summer, first time visitors report feeling like they stepped off of a plane and into an oven. In the brutal heat, even a short walk from an air conditioned building to the car can seam like a perilous journey through the desert. Yet this city was inhabited long before air conditioning was even invented. How is this possible? How did early Vegas residents survive the extreme heat? Well, there are a number of factors that helped the early citizens of Vegas beat the heat.

The first element to take into consideration is the fact that it actually was a tiny bit cooler in the early days of Las Vegas. Ironically, the use of air conditioning units have actually raised the average temperature in the Las Vegas area about half a degree every 10 years. While that might not be a huge difference, a few degrees can help take a bit of the edge off. Of course there were other tricks early citizens used to keep cool as well, although some were more effective than others.

One popular trend for keeping houses cool was to hang wet sheets in the doorway. The idea was that the water would cool the air before it entered the house, but in reality it didn’t work out so well. The water itself was not all that cold, and even if it were its properties were not necessarily transferred to the air simply by hanging it up. To have a real effect more drastic measures were needed.

Although the desert ground was not exactly the best for gardening, residents found ways around it. With water being piped into town from more reliable sources, inhabitants were able to bring trees that would normally not be able to grow in the dry climate. Trees were important because of the shade they provided, and citizens were so desperate to have it that they used dynamite to blast holes into the rock hard ground to plant trees.

Perhaps the most effective tool against the heat was ice. It’s hard to imagine, but Las Vegas citizens did in fact have access to ice in the middle of the summer. Special, insulated icehouses were built and filled with ice during the winter. When summer came the ice would not melt, and suppliers could deliver ice throughout the town.

Fortunately, today we have air conditioning to bend the desert to our will. Once air conditioning was introduced to the Vegas area, the population grew rapidly. It’s fair to say that Las Vegas air conditioning is the backbone of this city, and though the early pioneers of Vegas have shown us it’s possible to live without it, we certainly are glad to have it.

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