Henderson is a city in Clark County, Nevada. It is the second largest city in Nevada, after Las Vegas, with an estimated population of 257,729 in the 2010 census. The city is part of the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which spans the entire Las Vegas Valley. Henderson occupies the southeastern end of the valley, at an elevation of approximately 1,330 feet (410 m).
In 2011, Forbes magazine ranked Henderson as America’s second safest city. Analysts attribute this to Henderson being an affluent city, with a high median income and amenities catering to local residents. This limits movement throughout the area and to nearby Las Vegas. Henderson has also been named as “One of the Best Cities to Live in America” by Bloomberg Businessweek.
Henderson was named in honor of Senator Charles B. Henderson. The township of Henderson first emerged in the 1940s during World War II with the building of the Basic Magnesium Plant. Henderson quickly became a main supplier of magnesium in the United States, the “miracle metal” of World War II. The plant supplied the US War Department with magnesium for incendiary munition casings and airplane engines, frames, and other parts. A quarter of all US wartime magnesium came from the Henderson Plant to strengthen aluminum, using 25% of Hoover Dam’s power to separate the metal from its ore by electrolysis. Mayor Jim Gibson’s grandfather, Fred D. Gibson, was one of the original engineers sent to Great Britain to learn the secret of creating the “miracle metal” which would eventually help the United States and its allies win the war.
Although “born in America’s defense,” Henderson’s future after World War II was uncertain. In 1947, magnesium production was no longer necessary for defense, and the majority of the 14,000 BMI employees moved away. Enrollment in the school system was reduced by two thirds and well over half the townsite houses, built to house plant workers, became vacant. In 1947, the United States War Asset Administration had offered Henderson for sale as war surplus property.
In an effort to save the city, the Nevada Legislature spent a weekend visiting Henderson evaluating the possibility of state administration of Basic Magnesium. Within days of the visit, the legislators unanimously approved a bill giving the Colorado River Commission of Nevada the authority to purchase the industrial plants. Governor Vail Pittman signed the Bill on March 27, 1947, helping save Henderson from becoming war surplus property.
With the help of local industry, Henderson, Nevada, was officially incorporated on April 16, 1953 as the City of Henderson. On May 23, 1953, Henderson, with its population of 7,410, elected Dr. Jim French as the city’s first Mayor. Originally only about 13 square miles (34 km2) in size, the city quickly began to grow and flourish, reaching over 94 square miles (240 km2) in size today.
In 1988, the PEPCON rocket fuel factory in the modern-day Gibson Springs neighborhood of Henderson caught on fire. The fire quickly spread and engulfed the factory, spewing rocket fuel, smoke, and toxic fumes from the building. The factory was subsequently obliterated by a massive explosion caused by the fire, followed by six smaller explosions. The explosions sent shockwaves through the Las Vegas Valley, shattering glass and damaging buildings miles away in nearby Las Vegas. The explosions also caused some earthquakes, some of which measured over 3.0 on the Richter magnitude scale. Two people were killed, and an additional 372 people were injured. The events of the PEPCON factory disaster spurred development in Henderson from its historical industrial development to largely residential and commercial as it is today. There are no signs of the PEPCON explosion today, and the site now consists mostly of office buildings.
According to the 2000 census, there were 175,381 people, 66,331 households, and 47,095 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,200.8 people per square mile (849.7/km). There were 71,149 housing units at an average density of 892.8 per square mile (344.7/km). The racial makeup of the city was 80.49% White, 3.76% African American, 0.70% Native American, 3.98% Asian, 0.42% Pacific Islander, 3.16% from other races, and 3.49% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 13.71% of the population.
There were 66,331 households out of which 33.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.4% were married couples living together, 10.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.0% were non-families. 20.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.63 and the average family size was 3.05.
In the city the population was spread out with 25.1% under the age of 18, 7.9% from 18 to 24, 32.5% from 25 to 44, 24.4% from 45 to 64, and 10.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age for the city was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 98.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $55,949, and the median income for a family was $61,176. The per capita income for the city was $26,815. About 3.9% of families and 5.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.4% of those under age 18 and 4.7% of those age 65 or over.