How it was Built

How it was Built - Ragtown and the Town of Boulder City

The initial appropriation for funding the construction of the Boulder Dam Project was made in July 1930. When Construction began in July 1931, the country was reeling from the effects of the Great Depression. When word got out that work could be had in Nevada where the dam would be built, the area was flooded with men and their families, hoping for a new start. At one point there were over 5,000 men employed to construct the dam. Living conditions for the families of dam workers were challenging, with summer temperatures in the canyon reaching as high as 120°.

A new town called Boulder City was planned for workers, but the construction schedule for the dam was accelerated in order to create more jobs in response to the onset of the Great Depression, and the town was not ready when the first dam workers arrived at the site in early 1931. Without enough housing for the thousands of workers, temporary communities sprouted up and down the canyon. During the first summer of construction on the Dam while work on the town progressed, workers and their families were housed in temporary camps like Ragtown. Located near the dam in Black Canyon, Ragtown consisted of makeshift houses, tents, cardboard structures and canvas lean-tos.

Discontent with Ragtown and dangerous working conditions at the dam site led to a strike in August of 1931. Six Companies, the company responsible for the town’s construction, as well as the dam’s, responded by sending in strike-breakers with guns and clubs, and the strike was soon quelled. However, the discontent prompted the acceleration of the construction of Boulder City, and by the spring of 1932 Ragtown had been deserted. While the state of Nevada allows both gambling and prostitution, it allows prostitution only in counties with fewer than 400,000 residents. The local municipalities determine if they want to permit either activity within their city or town limtis. Neither gambling nor prostitution was permitted in Boulder City during the time of the the dam’s construction. The sale of alcohol was prohibited until 1969.  Boulder City is in the same county as Las Vegas, Clark County, and has a population of over two million, which exceeds the 400,000 limit for permiting prostitution. Boulder City still doesn’t allow gambling, although just outside of Boulder City limits, there is a small casino called Railroad Pass, which was established in 1931 and as such is the oldest active gaming license in southern Nevada.