Want character? Try the Hotel Nevada


Matt Hufman

The Hotel Nevada in Ely, opened in 1929, with six floors was once the tallest building in the state. This picture was taken on Sept. 25, 2013.

Nevada has long been known for thinking big. Look at the Las Vegas Strip. There are enormous hotels and mammoth clubs, the Stratosphere towers over the valley and Las Vegas will soon be able to boast having the world’s largest observation wheel.

But that type of thinking in Nevada didn’t start in Las Vegas. When Sin City was just a dusty railroad stop, other towns were called “big” and “modern.” In Central Nevada, for example, there was the stately Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah, the plush Goldfield Hotel down the road and then the Hotel Nevada in Ely.

Mike and I have now stayed in two of the three — the Goldfield Hotel is currently only taking reservations from pigeons and ghosts. The Mizpah Hotel, which has been lovingly restored, is known for its history and the many tall tales that revolve around it.

Although less known, the Hotel Nevada’s history has its own color.

Opened in 1929 with ceremonies that included a U.S. senator and the state’s only member in the House of Representatives, it was hailed as the tallest building in the state — all six stories of it. The hotel boasted an elevator and a private toilet in every room. Although Prohibition was the law of the land when it was opened, you could get an alcoholic drink here — local moonshine was freely available. You could also gamble, even though that was also illegal at the time.

Several Hollywood stars are listed on the hotel’s roster of famous people who have stayed there. And today, although it is far from being on any starlet’s list of glamorous locations, it still has character and every room still has a private toilet. (Always a good thing.)

The first floor features a cramped, smoky casino, a bar, a restaurant and plenty of taxidermy. (When a former colleague heard we stayed there, he messaged Mike, telling him the animals freaked him out. It’s not a good place if you’re afraid of such things — there are plenty of stuffed game animals, including a mountain lion over the lobby elevator doors, and an interesting display of rattlesnakes. You’ve been warned.)

The rooms and hallways are small — people were smaller 80 years ago, we’re told — and the parking area behind the hotel clearly was designed before SUVs. But all of that adds to the charm of the place. Just like the sign in the bathroom, which says:

Dear guest:

Please be aware that because of the age of the historic building — built in 1929 — the hot and cold water flow may sometimes fluctuate without warning.

We hope this is a small inconvenience to pay for for what we hope will be a memorable stay.

Thank you.

To make sure people understood, the hotel had mounted a smaller sign expressing the same sentiment on the bathroom door.

It struck me as funny, at least it did until I fumbled with the water faucets vainly trying to get a hot shower.

Oh, well, it adds to the place’s character, if not to mine.

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