Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Old Postcard Wednesday--Mizpah Hotel, Tonopah, Nevada

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. . . . 

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
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

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.



YogaforCynics said...

Well I've been from Tucson to Tucumcari
Tahachapee (sp?) to Tonopah,
Driven every kinda rig that's ever been made,
Driven the backroads so I wouldn't get weighed...

I've actually been through Tonopah a few times...most notably in police custody, along with busloads full of fellow protesters from the nuclear test site three hours south, during the waning years of the Reagan era...ah, memories...

Beth Niquette said...

This is a wonderful post! I espcially love the Mizpah Ring. Wow--what a loving, precious saying...

Thank you for your kind comment about my artwork, and for your visit! Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Amy said...

We travel through Tonopah at least once a year; we stopped and had lunch there in the late 80's. So it's very good news to hear that it will be revitalized. It's the perfect midway point between Reno and Las Vegas so they should do well. Thanks for all the good info!

naomi dagen bloom said...

As is often the case upon visiting here, it's a challenge to know where to begin. My reading is somewhat off these days (I'm in a hurry) and first thought the hotel was named "mitzvah" and must be a desert watering spot with Jewish connections.

From there it made sense that "Tonopah" was a made up Indian word by Catskill comedians--the way it was so popular in mid 20th century.

Next, the real estate dealing made me believe it was all about relocating the New York Catskill flavor to Nevada. Anything possible in America.

Lydia said...

YogaforCynics~ Interesting lyrics. Even more interesting story about you being taken into police custody with other protests at the nuclear site. I am glad you made that effort.
The first test at the Nevada Site happened eight days after I was born in Reno.

Beth~ Nice to be back in touch. Your art is always uplifting to me!

Amy~ You travel through Tonopah once a year or so? Wow, that's a long drive to make annually. I haven't been on that road for so many years and I really wish I could drive it again. Maybe to stay at the renovated Mizpah Hotel one day.....

Naomi~ You are in a hurry because you are so remarkably involved in your new city of Portland. When I read all the things you are up I think you are lucky to be there where there's so much going on.
I'm not sure what kind of flavor the new owners would want to bring to Tonopah, but I think if they went overboard (i.e., too fancy) it might backfire on them.
Those Catskills must really be something...

Hattie said...

Your best post yet, Lydia. Linking old postcards to the history of a place and your personal memories of it and its future really is effective.

Nancy said...

Ahhh the Mizpah. I used to make reservations for people applying for jobs at the nearby power plant in Valmy, while working for the power company. This was the late 1970's after the renovation. It did do well for a few years. I had no idea it had been closed since 2000, but then I haven't been to Tonopah in ages.

Lydia said...

Hattie~ Thank you for the compliment and your opinion is fascinating to me! I never would have thought this to be a best post, but it sure was enjoyable to put together.

Nancy~ Valmy? I'm a native Nevadan who never heard of the place! In actuality, I don't know much about that part of the state -- was always just passing through. That you have a direct link to the old Mizpah really sets this postcard aside as special from others.

Debbie Smith said...

How fun was this to find your blog while writing my blog! I lived in Tonopah for 30 years! I have seen the Mizpah go through many changes during my time there. From a bowling alley in the annex to the total renovation and to it's closing. Some great memories are the fine dining in the Pittman Room and the tour you could take underneath the Mizpah of an old mining tunnel. I could go on forever....I live in Vegas now, but still have to go up to Tonopah to visit my son and his family.

Lydia said...

Debbie~ It was exciting to have this comment from you, and then to discover your blog. Thank you!
If you have not already done so you might want to visit Nancy's blog (comments above yours), as she is in Reno.

sage said...

I've been through Tonnopah many times and have eated a couple of times (back in the 90s) at the Mitzpah... Intersting post. I found your blog looking at the various meanings of Tonopah for a post I plan to do on the town. I wonder about the Greasewood Water meaning as Tonopah elevation is higher than greasewood normally grows.

Anonymous said...

The Mizpah is opening again Aug. 27, 2011. Saturday night in Tonopah! Yee hah!
I first stayed there with my parents and sisters in June of 1967. We were on our way to my father's new post at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas. I remember the garbage truck at dawn made enough noise to wake the Red Lady ghost. Last visit was around January 1997 - not too crowded and definitely an antique-ey vibe. - Harley Hansen, Sacramento CA

Lydia said...

sage~ I saw your comment when I came to reply to one by Anonymous a year later! I will click on your link to see if you are still blogging. Thanks so much.

Harley Hansen (Anonymous)~ Well, how about that!!! I will look for some news about the event, most definitely. :)
Your stories about your visits there were just great to read. Thank you for taking the time to let me know about them and the updated news on the Mizpah!

LLoyd said...

Hello Lydia,
From sunny Hallandale, FL. I was doing my regular news and Political action stuff as I do daily and came upon the story of the next sludge fund after Solyndra for the worse cronie capitalism this country has ever seen. It is for a company owned by Pelosi's BIL and the name caught me.

Names mean a lot to not only good but people but especially crooks. Anyway after I did some searching on Tonapha for the meaning, I saw your link and that's how I came here. Being a history guy I thoughly enjoy your post, which I copied, and made part of the file. It was a nice idea of those folks bringing that place back.

People like staying somewhere that has that kind of rich history to it.

Thank You

Lydia said...

Lloyd~ Why, thank you! That intrigues and pleases me for you to keep the post with your research.
I am happy they reopened the place, too. Would like to see it again someday. :)



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