LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — An African American architect who left his mark in the Silver State was honored in Las Vegas on Saturday when Feb. 18 was proclaimed as Paul Revere Williams Day.

Nicknamed “the architect of the stars,” Williams was born in Los Angeles in 1894 and designed homes for celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, and Lucille Ball, and Desi Arnaz.

Architect Paul Williams (in a photo thought to be from the 1940s or ’50s) developed the ability to sketch buildings upside down to accommodate white clients who might not want to sit next to him.

Yet, it was Williams’s projects in Nevada that have been impactful in not only extending his legacy beyond Southern California but also in shaping modern-day Las Vegas.

“It was not just him being architect to the stars, it was also making sure everyone enjoyed the comfort of a home. All socioeconomic levels. All walks of life,” Carmen Beals, associate curator at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, said.

Williams knew in high school he wanted to be an architect. However, it was a career that seemed out of reach for a Black man in the early 1900s. Still, he pressed forward.

“Some of his techniques included learning how to draw upside down so that he would not have to worry about making his client feel unease,” Beals said.

Williams became the first Black member of the American Institute of Architects in 1923 and was the first Black architect working west of the Mississippi.

There are currently less than 5% of persons of color registered as architects.

“He was underrecognized for all of his career, and it wasn’t until several years after his death, that he was awarded the Gold medal by the AIA, which is one of the highest honors that that organization can do,” Rebecca Eckland, the director of communications and marketing for the Nevada Museum of Art, said.

It’s only fitting that the state proclamation for Paul Revere Williams was held at the Neon Museum, which is formally the La Concha Motel – a structure he designed.

“The Neon Museum is about absolutely preserving history. We tell the stories of Las Vegas through the signage that we have here,” Aaron Berger, the executive director of the Neon Museum, said.

Some of Williams’ other designs in Las Vegas include the Guardian Angels Cathedral and Berkley Square.

Janna Ireland spent 18 months photographing Williams’ designs in Nevada for a traveling art exhibition the Nevada Museum of Art sponsored.

“Here in Nevada I’ve noticed that buildings like the Concha, like the Guardian Angel Cathedral, are more modern, and make more use of modern materials,” Ireland said.

Williams designed more than 2500 buildings that are located around the world, a large number of them in Southern California.

The exhibition showcasing Paul Revere Williams’ work is currently at the Nevada State Museum.