Video Vault: The historic Morelli House entertained the nation's top entertainers

One of the most interesting examples of Las Vegas mid-century upscale residential architecture, the Morelli House is getting romantic in anticipation of Valentine’s Day next week, releasing new information about the courtship and marriage of the couple that owned it.

If you are not familiar with Antonio Morelli, he's someone who changed the music scene in Southern Nevada in the 50s and 60s, and helped make Las Vegas the "Entertainment Capitol of the World".

"And it just keeps getting better and better," star performer Sammy Davis, Junior told the audience at the Sands' Copa Room in 1960. "I don't believe it. I'm positive that this is what Nero had in mind originally."

Davis was performing with the orchestra of Maestro Antonio Morelli, who had been recruited by the Sands to head west.

"He was classically trained," the Las Vegas Junior League's Rachel Hunt told News-3. "And at the time he was at the Copa Cabana in New York. And he was asked to come here to really elevate the level of entertainment in the city."

Hunt says Morelli asked for a home to be custom built to the top standards of the day.

"It was in the prestigious Desert Inn Estates, which was one of the neighborhoods to be in."

By then, the conductor had earned the respect of the top names in show business.

"Antonio Morelli... and probably the greatest band in America today in any club anywhere," said Frank Sinatra in the Copa Room, gesturing to the conductor. "Please, Tony."

"It wasn't unheard of to have Sinatra, Dean Martin, Danny Thomas, Nat King Cole," gushed Hunt. "All of those entertainers that were at the Sands would actually end up being here [at the Morelli House] at one time or another.

That's because the house was made for entertaining and showing off.

"Well, certainly, the marble floating fireplace with the copper hood," said Hunt on a tour through the home. "That's one of the things that we call a Las Vegas feature."

The Morelli House also featured a TV that doubled as a bar, modern electronics and large, shaded windows.

When not entertaining at home or at the Sands, Antonio Morelli developed Las Vegas first symphony orchestra, and presented "Pops" concerts. He was a pillar of the community up until his death in 1974.

By the late 90s, the property was going to be acquired for what would become the Wynn Hotel and Casino.

"And we were very fortunate that the current owner of the house was willing to donate it to the Junior League of Las Vegas," explained Hunt.

In a complicated weekend move, the house made its way down city streets to the current location at 9th and Bridger, Where the Junior League has worked to make sure you can get a real sense of Antonio Morelli.

"But there is a group of people that wonder if you really recognize," Morelli told an audience in an archive recording. "My brass, please stand." He went on to single out all the orchestra sections.

"It's one of those things where you can't go back to the Sands," mused Hunt at the Morelli House. "But you can come here and you get a feel for exactly what those people experienced during that time."

The Morelli House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012. These days it is headquarters to the Las Vegas Junior League, but does hold occasional Open Houses.

The General Public is invited to take tours this Saturday, February 11 at 10:30 and 11:30 am and 1:00 PM.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off