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In Search Of Sarno Blocks

By Chuckmonster on Friday, 7th August 2015 4:28pm
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 3


[He] figured out a way to make this Roman orgy, bacchanalian kind of motel look expensive by using a concrete block that you could see through. And that would allow you to do the cheapest possible construction but hide it because it was the entire facade. And you laid behind the block a neon tube and it gave it a sexy glow. You put a couple of phony statues and a fountain in front of it. And customers thought they were driving up to the Taj Mahal." (from Grandissimo, by David G. Schwartz)

The speaker? Steve Wynn. The property? Caesars Palace. The man who invented a concrete wall you can see through? Jay Sarno.

So how does one go about inventing concrete that you can see through? Invisible sand? Transparent portland cement? Spike the punch bowl? Nope, the answer is simple, brilliant and alive in Las Vegas if you know where to look.

Sarno Block

The Sarno Block.

After being dissatisfied by existing concrete block solutions, Caesars Palace creator Jay Sarno set about to develop a new shape that could support ample weight and allow large amounts of light to pass through it in an aesthetically interesting pattern. The Sarno Block is a four legged, slightly bowed X shape block form that could be manufactured and shipped quickly and stacked and mortared like traditional brick walls.

Sarno Half Block Cp

Continuing renovations at Caesars Palace have removed nearly all of the original Sarno Blocks from the property. There are still some of the original pedestrian walls containing Sarno half-blocks near the Caesar statue entrance.

Sarno Blocks Circuscircus

Circus Circus, built a few years after Caesars Palace, also used Sarno Blocks in its construction. Many of these walls are still intact, and perfectly illustrate the "sexy glow" Steve Wynn spoke of.

Sarno Blocks Cc Wall

With the so much of Vegas casino history - New Frontier, Stardust, Sahara, Imperial Palace, Tropicana and Riviera - being demolished or completely renovated in the last few years, there isn't a helluva lot of stuff still standing that one can identify as being "the real stuff." For those Vegas freaks (yeah you) who love this stuff, the covered walkway between Circus Circus and Slots-A-Fun is one of the last places where you can come see and touch one of the literal building blocks of Las Vegas in its original form.

Sarno Blocks Cc Fence

Big thanks to Dave702 for being a pal.


Comments & Discussion:

Just finished reading "Grandissimo",a must read book for every Vegas veteran.

An early version of the "Sarno Blocks" was used at his Cabana Motel in Atlanta (Which is the project in which Sarno first obtained financing from the Teamsters.).


The Cabana he built in Dallas used the same "Sarno Blocks" that were used at Caesars and Circus Circus.


Unfortunately, the former Cabana in Dallas may have a date with demolition, as the property was sold last year (After serving as a correctional facility for a number of years.) and the new owners plan on razing it. The Cabana in Atlanta was torn down over a decade ago, and the former Cabana in Palo Alto looks little like the "mini Caesars Palace" it did when Sarno opened it.

i keep reading "sarno" as SAMO because my eyesight is shitty. which makes me think of basquiat. which makes me think of heroin. which draws the conclusion that these blocks look totally dope, yo.

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