Yes, I have been there. A handful of times. A stop in Tonopah breaks the monotony of the 452-mile, nearly 8-hour, drive between Reno and Las Vegas. When I was a kid we always stopped there at the Mizpah on family trips, never to stay the night but to have a bite to eat, and the same was true when I made the trip a few times as a college student.
In researching for background on this old postcard I was surprised to learn that the Mizpah Hotel had closed down in 2000 and was sold at auction in 2009.
An article from Las Vegas Review--written just prior to the auction--gave some history on the Mizpah Hotel, that has 56 rooms and six suites, a 3,000-square-foot casino space, two restaurants and two bars:
The Mizpah Hotel, the most famous building in Tonopah, always subject to comment and speculation as motorists roll through the old mining town en route to Reno or Las Vegas, is set to be auctioned Sept. 16, according to the Tonopah Times-Bonanza.
The five-story Victorian-style hotel, named for one of the silver mines that put Tonopah on the map, opened in 1908 and was the state's tallest building at the time. It has been closed since 2000, struggling for many years before that as various owners tried to make a go of it. A major renovation in 1976 led to a brief period of viability but as Tonopah fell on hard times, so did the hotel.
Nevada historians know the Mizpah as a reason they get headaches. Over the decades, various owners have tried to drum up business by linking the hotel to famous historical figures such as Wyatt Earp, Jack Dempsey and Howard Hughes. According to an article by retired Nevada Archivist Guy Rocha, these stories either are untrue or cannot be verified. In the case of Hughes, the Mizpah has marketed itself in the past as the place where the reclusive billionaire secretly married actress Jean Peters in 1957. In fact, the five-minute marriage ceremony occurred at the nearby L&L Motel, which was razed just a few years ago.
The Mizpah also allegedly has a ghost. According to the Haunted Nevada website, the "Lady in Red," supposedly a prostitute, resides on the fifth floor. She "was the victim of a jealous boyfriend who strangled her."
The hotel has been for sale for several years, with an initial asking price of $1.6 milion lowered to $1 million, with no takers. You gotta expect the high bidder at the auction could end up landing the property for much less than $1 million.
Well, it certainly did go for less than $1 million, as reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
A San Diego investment firm was the winning bidder for the historic Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah, which went on the auction block Sept. 16. Deftco Corp., represented by Joseph F. Dau, got the long-closed hotel for more than $500,000.
"We are going to revitalize it," Dau said by telephone this morning. "We're going to try to bring it up to a good-looking hotel and casino." Dau said he expects to spend several million dollars to fix up the hotel ...
I found several translations of the Native American word Tonopah. One describes the springs near the mines that was named Tonopah, meaning "greasewood water." Another site, discussing Tonopah, Arizona, says the word means "Hot Water Under the Bush."
Then there is the translation of the word Mizpah. I found this exquisite vintage "Mizpah" ring with the translation of the word that made me look a bit further. I am not a Bible scholar of any sort and I learned that Mizpah is from Genesis 31:49. You can read all the translations from the many versions of the Bible at this site.
Edwardian (1906) 9CT Gold Ruby "Mizpah" Ring - at auction site WorthPoint - description: The letters or meaning of Mizpah translate to:- ''The Lord watch between me and thee when we are absent from one another".
Sticking with the topics of translations and of Tonopah and of being on that particular road as a college student, how about this quote from the 1999 novel Lost in Translation, by Nicole Mones!
To Alice, Eren Obo was another Tonopah, Nevada--the way Tonopah had looked to her when, years before, she'd first driven out west from Texas. Just the sight, now, of these low sand-colored buildings, this contained little grid backed right up to a tributary range of brown desert mountains and the blazing blue sky, brought back the memory of being a college student, on the highway, in an open car, pretending she was flying away from her life as she drove west.
But this was Mongolia. . . .
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August 22, 2011
UPDATE: As a result from a comment left today I was alerted that the historic Mizpah Hotel is reopening this coming Saturday, August 27, 2011. What great news! Here is a blurb from msn.com:
updated 8/22/2011 1:48:57 PM ET
TONOPAH, Nev. (AP) -- Tonopah's historic Mizpah Hotel, once the tallest and most splendid hotel in Nevada, is reopening Saturday under new ownership.
Owners Nancy and Fred Cline say they're confident the five-story hotel along U.S. Highway 95 will soon turn a profit because of the potential for gold mining and solar energy development around Tonopah, which is roughly halfway between Las Vegas and Reno.
The current owner said they bought the Mizpah for $200,000 in February, the same amount of money it cost to build the hotel in 1907-08.
The Clines say while they have upgraded wallpaper and carpeting, they intend to maintain the historic character of the hotel. They also plan to hire 40 people.
Saturday's reopening will come 12 years after the hotel was last boarded up.