Sometimes it's the steady march of footsteps that irrevocably changes a place. Other times it's a single man with a vision and a mission who leaves big footprints.
In the case of Las Vegas, it is Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, whose legacy survives in Nevada's Mojave Desert. The renowned mobster's Flamingo Hotel, which opened in 1946, set Las Vegas on its way to becoming glitter gulch and the fastest-growing American city in the second half of the 20th century.
Two events greased the wheels for Siegel's vision -- the legalization of gambling in Nevada in 1931 and the gusher of electricity that began to flow out of Hoover Dam's power plant five years later.
More hotels and casinos were built in the mid-1950s -- the Dunes, the Sands and the Riviera -- and in the mid-1960s reclusive industrialist Howard Hughes arrived, creating another boom as he bought up local businesses and properties. Entertainers came to town, sometimes to gamble, sometimes to perform, occasionally to stay. Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra held forth here, and Debbie Reynolds bought her own hotel on the Strip.
In modern Vegas, more than 120,000 rooms at 299 hotels and 2,285 blackjack tables in 94 major casinos stand ready to welcome visitors. Since January, three major resorts -- Mandalay Bay, Bellagio and Paris Las Vegas -- have opened. But Bugsy's Flamingo was torn down in 1995.
As Elvis said, "Viva Las Vegas!"