Monday, July 29, 2019 | 2 a.m.
When the renovated Hotel Apache at Binion’s opens today, one of its first guests will be the granddaughter of the man who built it.
Gina Silvagni Perry — who was 4 years old when her grandfather P.O. Silvagni died in 1958 — said she’s looking forward to her stay at the Apache, which Benny Binion took over in 1951 along with the Eldorado Club and turned into the Horseshoe.
The Horseshoe has changed hands a few times since 2004 and was rebranded as Binion’s Gambling Hall and Hotel, but the building at 128 E. Fremont St. has always remained in the Silvagni family under a lease agreement.
Is the old Hotel Apache haunted? You decide
Doors inexplicably slam shut. The sounds of shuffling papers are heard in an empty office. A television mysteriously turns on by itself.
Is the historic Hotel Apache in downtown Las Vegas haunted? That will be for guests to decide, but the owners aren’t shying away from the tales of supernatural appearances and encounters.
To the contrary, such stories are part of the marketing strategy for the hotel, which has been refurbished at Binion’s and opens today. The hotel has even been featured on the Travel Channel show “Ghost Adventures.”
As the legend goes, a number of spirits have been known to appear in photos, make unexplainable noises and even, at times, make physical contact with staff members, especially in Room 400 and an old money count room above it.
“I’ve been down here for 11 years and I didn’t believe in any of it at first,” Binion’s General Manager Tim Lager said.
“My assistant would tell me these things, but I didn’t believe it,” he said. “Then things started happening to me that just couldn’t be explained. We don’t push it on anyone, but, yes, incidents have happened that you can’t explain.”
“I’ve never stayed overnight there, so I’m going to enjoy it,” Silvagni Perry said. “I’m going to take some little trinkets I have like the old key to Room 100, which is where my grandfather used to stay, and an old book that he used to write the daily slot drop in.”
The hotel at Binion’s has been closed for about a decade, but 81 rooms have been refurbished and will open to the public this week as the Apache. Close to 300 rooms in the Binion’s tower above the casino will remain vacant for now.
“We wanted to recreate what this hotel was when it opened as what was then a megaresort back in 1932,” said Tim Lager, general manager of Binion’s, which is owned by TLC Casino Enterprises.
“It’s a boutique hotel, so we’re not the Golden Nugget with 2,400 rooms, but we want to give people a vintage Las Vegas experience,” he said.
The hotel opening will come several weeks before the unveiling of a 6,500-square-foot rotating bar called Whiskey Licker Up at Binion’s. The glass-domed bar will place patrons just feet away from zipliners traveling down Fremont Street.
A number of improvements had been planned when TLC purchased Binion’s in 2008, but the recession soon took hold, and things came to a halt.
“We had all these grand plans of remodeling all the rooms and doing all kinds of stuff, but the world collapsed during the summer of 2008,” Lager said. “We were forced to go into bunker mode and survive. Room rates had dropped everywhere and we were in bad shape.”
As the economy improved, however, plans to renovate the Hotel Apache portion of the property were put back into motion, Lager said.
Because code restrictions dictated that walls couldn’t be moved to create suites, TLC officials decided to make the rooms look much like they did in the 1930s, with some modern conveniences such as flat-screen TVs.
“You have hardwood floors, stained-glass windows and old-fashioned phones and radios,” Lager said. “It’s a throwback, and boutique hotels are very popular now.”
Silvagni Perry said the renovation is “exactly how it was when I would go there as a kid.” Her grandfather P.O. Silvagni, an Italian immigrant, laid the foundation for the property after buying the property for $30,000 in 1931.
“My grandfather, who didn’t speak English well, came to this country with nothing,” Silvagni Perry said. “He was a tremendous builder in Price, Utah. He had a cement contract for the Hoover Dam, which is how he came here. He saw a dirt lot and knew there were workers in Boulder City building a dam who had nothing to do on a Saturday night. To do what he did back then, to see that, it was quite a vision.”
Lager said it’s that kind of history that makes the Apache unique.
“The Apache was the first air conditioned hotel in Las Vegas and had the first electric elevator in the city. Are we going to be the new multibillion dollar property? No, but we have something that not everyone has,” Lager said. “You can’t buy history.”