Courtney Mooney


Courtney Mooney holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Architecture and a Graduate Certificate in Public Management from University Nevada, Las Vegas; and a Master of Science Degree in Historic Preservation from Columbia University, New York. She works for the City of Las Vegas Department of Planning as an Urban Design Coordinator and Historic Preservation Officer, developing and implementing historic preservation programs and managing the rehabilitation of city-owned historic properties.

Courtney is a Nevada native, born in Elko and raised in Carson City. She spent her childhood exploring Nevada’s museums, antique shops, and hidden ghost towns on the back of her father’s motorcycle. She has a deep appreciation for Nevada history and has dedicated her professional life to preserving Nevada’s historic resources.



In a bold move to counter the effects of the Great Depression, Nevada legalized gambling and reduced the residency requirement to obtain a divorce to six weeks in 1931, From then on, divorce-seekers from all over the United States, mostly women, thronged to Nevada to obtain a divorce, Many of those who came required a level of privacy and seclusion not possible at urban hotels and motels, Meanwhile, local ranches outside of town began accepting paying guests to help make ends meet during the Depression, This combination of factors gave rise to the guest ranch, often referred to as a “dude ranch,” or, sometimes, “divorce ranch.”

The first modern divorce ranch in Las Vegas opened in 1939, With amenities such as horseback riding, hunting, shooting, calf-roping, and gambling in a romantic western setting, many divorce-seekers experienced their heady first taste of independence,

This presentation discusses the history of Las Vegas Valley divorce ranches within the context of divorce trends, women’s rights, tourism and the commodification of “Wild West” lifestyle, architecture and imagery,

Photo credit: Josh Rogers

Appropriate Audience: Adults; high school students.

Duration: C. 1 hour

Presenter Requirements: 

  • Means for screening PowerPoint presentation,

If equipment indicated above is unavailable, please discuss alternatives with Presenter.

Categories: Nevada, history, women’s issues