Jones and Emmons: Modernism for the Las Vegas Masses


Dave Cornoyer


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The Other Las Vegas Part Two
Jones and Emmons: Modernism for the Masses

by Dave Cornoyer

Architects A. Quincy Jones and Frederick Emmons made a successful name for themselves in the midcentury era as the preferred architects for prolific developer Joseph Eichler. While not exclusively employed by Eichler, it was their work with another well-known West Coast builder that would first bring them to the Las Vegas market. Builder George Pardee Sr. originated his construction company in 1921, later forming the Pardee Construction Company in 1946 with sons Hoyt and George in 1946, son Douglas in 1948 and finally financier Gifford Phillips in the 1950s, at which point the company became Pardee-Phillips. Pardee-Phillips originated the concept of the ‘Forever Home’ in 1952 with the development of their first large-scale residential subdivision tract, Southdown Estates, in Pacific Palisades, California, for which Jones and Emmons were hired as the designers.

The idea of the Forever Home was to buck traditional-style construction, decrease maintenance, and was allow for do-it-yourself upkeep with designs that were termite-proof, rot-proof, fuel saving and laden with smart insulation features. Pardee-Phillips entered the Las Vegas market in 1953 with the purchase of a tract of land near Maryland Parkway and San Francisco (Sahara Avenue) Street. The tract was selected for its proximity to growing residential areas, schools, churches, and retail amenities.  The new community would come to be known as Francisco Park.

Local architects Walter Zick and Harris Sharp (Zick & Sharp) were brought in to direct the planning and development. Their brief included considerations for safeguarding children from heavy traffic and overall guidance and integration of the community research conclusions addressing specific issues the area faced. Sharp,  was reported to be in a favorable condition to advise on these needs, as he was a city commissioner at the time.

Pardee-Phillips commissioned research funds following a conference of engineers, architects, economists, consumer representatives, bankers, and company officials who explored the possibilities of translating scientific home engineering and family finance into practical benefits to small property owners. The results were that this new community was to be composed entirely of duplexes. The reasoning being that in the past, prospective homeowners had to face years of slow amortization payments entirely paid out of wages or salaries. Economists at the research conference concluded that most families would do better budget-wise with a dual-purpose dwelling that would provide both a home unit and an income-producing unit. 

In November 1953 the Jones and Emmons Francisco Park duplexes were advertised in local newspapers, enticing prospective buyers to live rent free. The ads boasted “Forever” construction, explaining that the homes were precisely engineered of steel, aluminum, glass and masonry. Units were advertised as being 12-degrees cooler, important in the desert heat, 20% fuel cost savings in the winter, four times stronger and three times more soundproof than standard construction, and touted as a sound investment that could earn potential buyers an additional $25 to $50 per month. Duplexes consisted of a three bedroom, one bathroom unit and a two bedroom, one bathroom unit. Both units were designed to shield privacy from one another. 

The grand opening of Francisco Park was held on January 9th, 1954. Thousands of Las Vegans braved threats of wind and sand to preview the new models. The Pardee brothers, Zick and Sharp, members of the banking community, and Franklin Richards, former National Commissioner of the Federal Housing Commission were present to greet guests. With sale prices starting at $23,950, over $500,000 in sales were reported within the first week. 

Concurrently, Pardee-Phillips and Jones and Emmons were planning a single-family tract of Forever Homes in the city of North Las Vegas. These homes, dubbed College Park, were designed by Jones and Emmons to include all the ‘Forever’ features that had won Pardee-Phillips international recognition and the 1953 and 1954 (and eventually, 1955) National Association of Homebuilders Award of Merit.

Prospective home buyers lined up at North Las Vegas’ College Park at 25th Street (Civic Center Drive) and Owens Avenue at 4:00 AM. Within 24 hours of opening, 90% of the community had sold out shattering all previous Las Vegas home sales records. Much of the popularity of these homes was the affordability factor – veterans could get in with no money down and a 4.5% loan, while other buyers were enticed with $54 mortgage payments, meaning that a family(1) earning $300 per month could afford a new Jones and Emmons-designed home in College Park. In response to overwhelming demand, a second phase was announced two months later, and within a year over 500 homes had been sold. Street names in the community bear the names of Frederick Emmons, Gifford Phillips, and Hoyt and Douglas Pardee. While most homes in the neighborhood have been heavily altered from their original design, it remains an affordable neighborhood for the working class.

One year after the opening of College Park, Pardee-Phillips and Jones and Emmons brought another new tract of homes to Las Vegas, Country Club Estates, located adjacent to Francisco Park. Country Club Estates (today simply referred to as Francisco Park) was envisioned as a single-family home community featuring the Forever House design principles and promising luxury country club living at moderate prices. It was the first single-family neighborhood in Las Vegas to offer a community pool, and the largest home offerings yet from Pardee-Phillips, with three and four bedroom options, family rooms, walls of glass, Dianna-styled Youngstown kitchens, coloramic baths with dual lavatories, dramatic fireplaces and estate home sites. Opened on May 29, 1955, Country Club Estates still offered a zero down payment for veterans, but was priced one-third higher than College Park. The team of Pardee-Phillips and Jones and Emmons had another success on their hands, with over $200,000 in sales reported on opening weekend. 

By 1957 the Pardee-Phillips designed by Jones and Emmons homes had sold out. Tracts of both College Park and Francisco Park continued to be built through the 1970s, although not under the guidance of Jones and Emmons. In 1962, they partnered with a developer named Sproul on the Parade of Homes lineup at their new model complex on Alta Drive west of Jones Boulevard. Sproul Homes originated in Albuquerque, NM in 1949 and quickly expanded to Denver, Reno, and Oceanside. The homes in the 1962 development were given names of both Native American tribes here in the United States and Indigenous peoples of Central America. Jones and Emmons designed the ‘Hopi’ model. Sproul offered a staggering 63 home designs in Charleston Heights, and the Hopi, which featured spacious rooms conveniently located around an enclosed patio, open beamed cathedral ceilings, decorative rock roofs, and sliding glass doors, was a strong seller.

The plan proved to be so popular that in 1963 Sproul brought the plan to its second phase of San Luis Rey Estates in Oceanside, CA, known in that community as the ‘Lido’ model. Back in Las Vegas, the plan was brought to the Sproul-built Royal Estates in North Las Vegas in early 1963, then the more exclusive Charleston Estates in 1963 (adding ‘Chief’ after the Hopi name), and lastly to the Winterwood Community in 1964. 

The Hopi model began to be phased out of the original Charleston Heights line up, available as a ‘special order’ build by the time a new model complex opened in 1964. More examples of the Hopi would be found in Winterwood, which offered a collection of more contemporary-styled homes surrounding a golf course. In 1965 Las Vegas was plagued by a housing recession which stalled the Winterwood development for another decade. By 1966 the last of the Hopi models were constructed at Winterwood, ending the final four-year run of A. Quincy Jones and Frederick Emmons designed production homes in Las Vegas. 


(1) In Las Vegas, as in all of the United States, restrictive covenenants, redlining, and other racist policies prevented blacks and other minorities from living in these developments. Black residents did not get their first housing development in Las Vegas until 1954 with the construction of Berkeley Square, designed by Paul R. Williams (discussed in the next article in this series). The Online Nevada Encyclopedia has a brief history of African Americans in Las Vegas

About the Author

Dave Cornoyer is a 20-year Las Vegas resident, graduate of UNLV’s Landscape Architecture program, former city planner, midcentury and history enthusiast, and is the Forward Planning Manager of Lennar Las Vegas.  

The Other Las Vegasis part of the Docomomo US Regional Spotlight on Modernism Series, which was launched to help you explore modern places throughout the country without leaving your home. Previous spotlights include Chicago, MississippiMidland, Michigan, and Houston. Have a region you'd like to see highlighted? Submit an article.

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The Other Las Vegas Part Three
Paul Revere Williams in Las Vegas