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July 6, 2020

Explore the History of Henderson’s Historic Water Street District

Did you know the Water Street District is where Henderson began? The original 13-square-mile townsite has a rich culture and history, becoming the heart of Nevada’s second-largest city. Read on to explore Henderson’s past to learn how it became the vibrant city it is today.

Water Street District: Then and Now

Developed in 1941, the Basic Townsite became a working town for the Basic Magnesium, Inc. (BMI) plant, which produced munitions for World War II. When the war ended, and magnesium was no longer needed, the land was supposed to be sold as war surplus property but was saved by the state legislature.

As the community grew, other town features were completed. In 1944, a post office was built and named in honor of former Nevada U.S. Senator Charles B. Henderson. As head of the government’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation, he provided the funds necessary to build the BMI plant. On April 16, 1953, the City of Henderson was officially incorporated.

Residents and visitors can take a historical walking tour of Water Street, which describes Henderson’s development from its birth during WWII to the well-known city it has become today. Here are just a few key highlights of the tour:


Despite the focus to aid the war effort, Henderson residents sought ways to relax and have fun. Workers started the BMI Recreation Club to organize and sponsor activities within the community. In July 1943, Victory Theatre opened on the corner of Army and Panama streets. The first film shown was “Presenting Lily Mars,” starring Judy Garland.


The War Labor Board halted all magnesium production in November 1944 due to a surplus, which led many to feel uncertain about the community’s future. However, the Air Force secured housing for servicemen stationed at the Las Vegas Army Air Field — later named Nellis Air Force Base — in Victory Village and Carver Park the following year. When the Korean War started in 1950, Henderson aided the war effort again by manufacturing sodium chlorate and, shortly after, titanium.


In July 1943, the BMI plant reached its full production capacity of magnesium at 112 million pounds annually. However, the plant shut down in November 1944, and the Colorado River Commission eventually purchased the plant and townsite. The plant became home to several industrial firms, and Henderson began to brand itself as Nevada’s Industrial Center by the 10th anniversary of the founding of the townsite in 1952.

Today, the Water Street District stretches from Ocean Avenue in the south to Lake Mead Parkway in the north. You’ll find a wide variety of unique boutiques and one-of-a-kind restaurants lining Henderson’s historic street. Enjoy a show at the Henderson Events Plaza Amphitheater or shop farm-fresh produce and handmade crafts every Thursday at the Country Fresh Farmers Market. Additionally, Water Street District is also home to some of the city’s most popular events: Arbor Day Celebration, Ho’olaule’A festival, and the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Did any of these facts about Water Street District catch your eye? When you live in Henderson, you’ll never be far from a historic downtown that offers a wide variety of shopping and entertainment options. Are you on the hunt for a new home? Check out Inspirada’s inventory of new homes to help you find your perfect home base today!

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