Grand Hotel in an Old Mining Town
This hotel has been welcoming folks since its opening, in 1908.
Don and I got to be guests, 115 years later!
Tonopah in 2018
We actually spent a night in Tonopah 5 years earlier.
It was a cold February day when we drove into town, on US 95. I was intrigued by the hotel with the roof sign.
But we had reservations at Tonopah's "World Famous Clown Motel", a half mile down the road.
Our motel stay was an amusing and memorable experience! We actually ate dinner at the Mizpah and put the hotel on our list for the future.
Last June, Tonopah was on our road trip route once again. We booked a night at the Mizpah.
We spotted the Mizpah roof sign again. The worn out building across the street had been spiffed up and had just opened as Belvada Hotel. Wow! 3 hotel options in a town of about 2,000!
Tallest in Nevada
We grabbed a parking space, right in front of the 5-story Mizpah. We got out carefully as cars and trucks whizzed by on US 95.
When the hotel opened during the great Nevada silver boom, I'm not sure how busy the road was. I do know the hotel at that time was the tallest building in Nevada.
Before the grand hotel was built, the 1-story Mizpaw Saloon and Grill occupied the spot, next to a 3-story bank building.
I believe the saloon and bank building was the first permanent structure in the mining town, back in 1901.
The taller bank building, became the shorter building, once the impressive Mizpah was completed. Now the 3-story building on the left, is the hotel's annex.
When the high class hotel opened in 1908, it quickly became the social hub of Tonopah. When we arrived on a Wednesday afternoon in 2023, the Mizpah appeared to still be the center of activity. Quite a few folks were heading inside.
We were lucky to find parking directly in front, by the funny rounded stairs.
The vintage photos shows no raised sidewalk. As I fumbled bags up the steps, I wondered why and when the entrance was lifted.
As we headed for the doors beneath the "M", I noticed more Ms.
There were M's in the leaded glass windows.
There was a giant M above the entrance to the lowered lobby, where we checked in. The M is obviously for Mizpah. The hotel was named for one of Tonopah's mines.
We checked in, on the lower level of the annex. It was actually bustling with guests at 5:30. (unlike my 6 am photo)
We chatted with some others in line and learned that the hotel is always busier on weeknights. The desk clerk agreed. "It's quiet around here on weekends." He explained that Tonopah isn't much of a tourist destination, but it's a convenient stop when traveling. It's about midway between Vegas and Reno.
After checking in, we peeked into the lobby lounge, with all its Victorian furniture. There was a pretty good crowd gathering at the bar.
The guests clearly seemed to prefer the stools, over velvet couches.
I imagine the original Mizpah Saloon probably had some kind of upright piano, with a guy playing ragtime. In 2023, there was a more formal piano in a corner of the lobby.
I had to chuckle at the autographed photo of Liberace, displayed on the grand piano.
The lobby felt a little nicer than I recalled from our dinner at the bar, 5 years ago.
I pulled up an old photo from my phone and saw a very different look in 2018.
I was more tempted to play the piano than the slots, but Liberace intimidated me. We headed with our bags to find our room. We could have taken the stairs and burned some calories, but we had bags and the elevation was over 6,000.
We headed for the old elevator and rode up with the displayed license of "Walter", the original operator in 1908!
Lady in Red
The chatty clerk at the desk said he'd given us a room on the 5th floor, with lots of ghost activity. I took a seat in a red velvet rocker, just outside our room and watched 3 young girls tiptoeing by our door. They were whispering and giggling about The Lady in Red.
We'd seen her portrait in the lobby, In the 1920's she had been a "female companion to lonely minors" until she was murdered in Room 504. Her hauntings have helped Mizpah Hotel achieve the title of #1 Haunted Hotel, in USA Today.
Our room was just 2 doors down from the haunted, Lady in Red Suite, where the high class prostitute was murdered years ago.
There was no feel of gloom in our bright room, but evidently there have been a number of deaths in the hotel. I hoped the dapper man in the photo above our bed wasn't one of them.
I'm afraid I didn't recognize the man, sitting on a park bench.
Mr. Baruch evidently was a financier, who spent a lot of time advising people like Presidents Wilson and Roosevelt, during WW I and II. He also spent a lot of time at the Mizpah, which tells you that Tonopah was a much more happening place over a century ago. Luckily he didn't die here.
Room With a View
I love corner rooms. We had 2 windows looking down on Main Street (US 95).
I loved studying the old buildings and distant mountains. The view at sunset was extra fun.
The third window was in the bathroom. The view to the north was less impressive, with flat rooftops. The view of Don and me at night, must have been very impressive! The blinds were broken!
I can't say too much positive about the bathroom. The worn vanity and spinning faucet knobs needed help. I know the Mizpah's hot and cold running water in 1908, was considered very luxurious. I would not use that word for the bathroom today.
Down for the Evening
For the rest of our stay, we made good use of the stairs. Seems we were always dashing up or down for something. No fitness room needed.
We greeted our statue friend each time!
I'm not sure what the walls were like 115 years ago. But the Nancy and Fred Cline did a great job renovating when they bought this hotel over a decade ago.
The Clines (of Cline Family Cellars in Sonoma) rescued this closed down hotel in 2011. They also recently opened the Belvada Hotel across the street. The owners live in California, but they fell in love with the area when Nancy discovered some family connections to the old mines.
Hanging in the Lounge
There were no open seats at the bar, when Don and I wandered down around 6. We had our pick of velvet couches.
We grabbed drinks at the bar and settled into some LOW seating and did a little people watching. We determined that most of the guests were traveling with work. "Mostly geologists" we were told later. Interesting.
None of the people gabbing around the bar seemed at all interested in gambling. I only spotted 5 machines on this visit.
Back in 1945, there was a bigger focus on gambling. There were 80 slot machines, as well as roulette, craps and blackjack. I was tempted to give the old roulette wheel a spin. But I obeyed the sign and left it alone.
Gaming didn't come to Tonopah until the 1940's. Decades before that, heavyweight boxing champ, Jack Dempsey came to Tonopah. The hotel's dining room is named after him.
Dempsey worked as a miner and even a bouncer at the Mitzvah, before he became a famous boxer. We thought about eating in the dining room, surrounded by his photos. But it seemed too isolated and quiet.
We also could have grabbed a bite at the hotel's other restaurant, the Pittman Cafe. But we didn't want to be the only diners.
The cafe was named for Senator Key Pittman, who practiced law in Tonopah. That's not so interesting, but the rumors of his death are curious. Did he really die in 1940, before the election... that he won? Did his party leaders really keep his body on ice in a Mizpah Hotel bathtub, until votes passed and his party could name his replacement? I believe these really are just rumors.
Dinner at the Bar
Don and I ended up doing what we often do. We ate dinner at the bar, where we sometimes meet interesting characters or learn some local scoop.
Jennifer our bartender/server was a delight. She darted from one end of the bar to the other, her long shirt tails and blond hair whooshing after her. Everyone was Honey or Sweetie, to Jennifer. Big thumbs up to Jennifer's energy and enthusiasm. She managed to fill us in on some hotel history, even though she hardly ever stopped moving.
Don's appetizer of sautéed mushrooms with pearl onions, was a real treat! He had loaded baked potato that was almost as good as my spinach salad. I ordered a glass of wine from the Cline's Sonoma vineyards. In fact that's the only wine they serve,
Five years ago, I remember ordering a very yummy chicken fried steak at the bar. I loved the vintage hotel plate and missed having an M on my plate this time.
Dan & Don
Don ended up chatting with Dan, who sat next to him at the bar. Dan was a Tonopah resident, since 1989. He clearly loved the history of the town and took us over to examine some holes in the vault doors. He encouraged us to peek into the little museum space inside.
Dan seemed amused that we'd stayed at the Clown Motel before. He shared some info about the motel owner, who we remember fondly. He talked about the recently opened Belvada Hotel across the street. "The building was in such bad shape, the Clines bought it for a dollar." He laughed as he described driving into town each day half expecting to see the building collapsed onto US 95. And now beautifully restored!
Mizpah at Night
It was about 9:30 when we headed upstairs. I suddenly realized I had forgotten to step outside to get a night picture. I raced down and snapped a pic and noticed Don in the upper left windows. Too funny!
Then I noticed 2 guys having a smoke break on the raised sidewalk. Just then a truck sped by on US 95 and I realized why they built up the sidewalk. They must have been trying to keep hotel guests, a little further from the traffic. Maybe?
I crossed the street carefully and headed back, walking beneath the glowing sign. Jacuzzi Family, as in spas? Yep! Fred Cline's grandfather was one of the 7 Jacuzzi brothers, connected to the healing tub spas, that became popular in the seventies!
Light came into the room so early, I finally just threw on some clothes and went downstairs to see what the hotel looked like at 5:45.
I wasn't surprised to see the bar/lobby empty. I was surprised to hear upbeat and pleasant music filling the empty space.
I took some time to study more of the celebrity photos that line a few of the walls. I greeted Doris Day in a bubble bath and Butterly McQueen, in her "Gone With the Wind" costume.
These celebs were never guests. The Clines just have a collection of celebrity photos, along with cancelled checks. Odd! However Howard Hughes was a hotel guest many times.
It was incredibly bright out, when I stepped outside before 6 am. The flags were whipping and the temps read 44 degrees.
At such an early hour I still had to pause for trucks as I crossed the street to see the Tonopah mural.
I snapped a pic and headed down the street, to see the post office...
... with a somewhat eerie sculpture of a miner being rescued.
I took a good look at the Belvada Hotel and figured we'd be back eventually, for another Tonopah stay.
Then I hiked up the funny rounded steps to the raised sidewalk. I continued stair climbing and was fully awake by the time I reached the 5th floor.
Coffee and View
I had a shower then made Keurig coffee and enjoyed the view.
By 7:15 the vacant lot was alive with trucks. Were they tearing up the old concrete? How will this space be used? A grassy park?
We stayed in a grand old hotel, with a special connection to an old Nevada mining town. The lovely brick and stone building seemed like an isolated oasis in the middle of nowhere, just as it must have felt 115 years ago.
I wouldn't say that our stay was luxurious, but it was comfortable and clean and reasonably priced. The atmosphere was welcoming, the food and service was quite decent. The history and entertaining ghost stories added some fun. There was a positive feel to the Mizpah. It seems like the hotel and the town are just getting better with time. (rare for small towns) Tonopah may never have a population of 10,000 again, but it definitely seems to be moving in the right direction.
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!