LAS VEGAS (FOX5) — The family who owned Wee Kirk o’the Heather Wedding Chapel in downtown Las Vegas said they were just as surprised to see it demolished as the rest of the community.
“It was definitely sad to see it go and we really weren’t aware that they were going to bulldoze it down,” said Joshua Gust.
The sign is now the only piece left of the historic chapel that dates back to 1940. Gust’s parents bought it in 1980.
“As a kid, I remember going down there, doing my homework. It’s kind of a unique building. It had a basement in it, it had a bedroom in the back, it had all kinds of things,” said Gust.
It was one of the first chapels on Las Vegas Boulevard but as downtown changed, so did business.
“You drove right by it, it was kind of the last place you saw before the courthouse before you turned down to go to the old marriage bureau. And then once they moved that further south, that just really, really hurt business. Since then it’s never really been the same.”
His family now owns several chapels in Las Vegas. As his parents got older, Gust said they wanted to take a step back so they started leasing it to another couple seven years ago.
They started looking to sell within the last year and closed in April. A cooperation from Chicago bought the property. Gust said he and his family had no idea it would be demolished six months later.
“Unfortunately, this has been a crazy year and I think actually operating as a chapel, COVID kind of finished that off for them.”
Gust said he and his family spent years trying to find a way to salvage the building, just like the other chapels they owned.
“With the Candlelight Wedding Chapel, when we donated that building they were able to jack it off the foundation and take it out to the Heritage Museum,” he said.
They asked the Heritage Museum about Wee Kirk o’the Heather, too.
“Because the original structure was made out of adobe, they said it would just crumble if they tried to move the building,” said Gust.
A spokesperson with the city of Las Vegas said the demolition permit was still under review when crews tore it down over the weekend.
The Nevada Preservation Foundation is collecting signatures to bring to Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday to get a protective ordinance that would review historic buildings before demolition.
“I think it’s good to have some kind of checks and balances to make sure, in a city where progress comes through so fast, that there’s some sort of pause to see how we can preserve the buildings, preserve history,” said Gust.
Wee Kirk o’the Heather was not listed on the Las Vegas Historic Properties Register, but the Nevada Preservation Foundation said it’s considered historic because of the age of the building and the impact the chapel had on the city.
Gust said he’s working with the Neon Museum to preserve the sign.
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