Louise Speaks: Again as part of our annual Pahrump trip, a friend of mine who lives here takes us on a Field Trip of the surrounding area. Today we were off to Tonapah, Gold Field and Gold Point.
The drive out is through the Mohave Desert and pretty dry. There are mountains and beautiful skies, but once again the desert flowers are not in bloom. A pretty boring drive if you don’t have someone to converse with…luckily we did. Tonapah from Pahrump is about 165 miles north, so about 225 miles north of Las Vegas. This part of Nevada does not have much civilized living…it is all desert. You must go through Gold Field to get to Tonapah. Since we were in need of a potty break and another car in our group needed gas, we went through Gold Field to Tonapah to get gas…before you ask, Gold Field does not have a gas station.
We did not mind stopping in Tonopah. Tonopah, is a quaint little town full of old hotels, small shops, bars and liquor stores. We spotted a book store and had to take a peak. An hour and over $100 later, we were back walking the streets. This was a very popular mining town in it’s day. It was also the first big town you reached traveling from Reno and California. It is located at the junction of U.S. Routes 6 and 95, approximately midway between Las Vegas and Reno. The legendary tale of how Tonoaph was discovered, says that Jim Butler went looking for a burro that had wandered off during the night and sought shelter near a rock . When Butler discovered the burro the next morning, he picked up a rock to throw at it in frustration. He noticed that the rock was unusually heavy. Butler had stumbled upon the second-richest silver strike in Nevada history. As Tonopah was growing, a 24-year-old poker player, played poker and dealt faro in the town saloons. Once he had a small bankroll, he talked the, owner of the Tonopah Club, into taking him in as a partner and to file for a gaming license. Where ever there is gaming there is alcohol and that leads to trouble. In 1903, miners rioted against Chinese workers in Tonopah. This resulted in China enforcing a boycott in China of U.S. imported goods. Hard to believe a town this small could have that much power. By the time the partners moved to Goldfield and made their Goldfield Consolidated Mining Company a public corporation in 1906, these two partners were worth more than $30 million. Can you imagine $30 million in 1906?
Gold and silver production was falling and by 1920, the town of Tonopah had less than half the population it had fifteen years earlier. Small mining ventures continued to provide income for local miners and the small town struggled on. Tonopah has supported travelers as a stopover and rest spot on a lonely highway. Today the Tonopah Station has slots and the Banc Club still serves as a casino. One of the original saloons bears the name Bug Bar with their motto, “Brew with a View”, kind of catchy don’t you think? In the fall of 2011, a California-based solar energy company, started construction on $980 million advanced solar energy project just outside town. The project put Tonopah at the worldwide center of technology for this class of solar energy storage. They could not have picked a more perfect place since it is in the middle of the Mohave Desert. This project put 800 workers on site, and was completed in 2014. So although small and quaint it is once again a booming town.
The most historic building in Tonopah is the Courthouse and the Mizpah Hotel. For being over 100 years old, the courthouse is in pretty good shape. The Hotel however, is a show stopper. The hotel has 47 luxury suits and each room features high thread count sheets, ultra comfort mattresses, period decor, and modern amenities like flat screen TVs and free wifi. In looking at this town, I can’t imagine 47 overnight guests staying here, but maybe for the fact of saying they stayed at the Mizpah Hotel.
The hotel opened in 1907 and was the first luxury hotel in Nevada…even before Las Vegas and Reno. The hotel obtained new owners in 2011 who did a complete renovation. There is a full bar and gaming room in the lobby and the lobby is decorated with plush velvet sofas and loveseats. There are two fine restaurant on site and hosts live entertainment on the weekends. The hotel was built for $200,000, and has solid granite walls, leaded glass windows and Victorian-era luxury rooms. The hotel features solid oak furniture, hot and cold running water, steam heat, brass chandeliers, stained glass windows, and an electric elevator, one of the first in the state. At five stories, it was also the tallest building in Nevada until 1929. Gaming came to the Mizpah Hotel in the 1940s. The first chips were issued in 1945, and the casino included a roulette wheel, craps table, blackjack, and 80 slot machines.
Like most hotels in small towns, it is said to be haunted. The Mizpah Hotel is said to house a ghost deemed “the Lady in Red” by hotel guests who have experienced her presence. She is so famous there is even a wine named after her. Legend says that the Lady in Red is the ghost of a prostitute who was beaten and murdered on the fifth floor of the hotel by a jealous ex-boyfriend. Another widely accepted description of the events is that The Lady in Red had been caught cheating by her husband at the hotel after he had missed a train, who then proceeded to kill her in a jealous rage. The Lady in Red haunting of the Mizpah was featured in season 5, episode 2 of Ghost Adventurers on the Travel Channel.
We had not planned to visit much in Tonapah, but just driving through made us have to stop. The book store, the hotels, and just the hustle and bustle of Saturday traffic. We could have spent more time here so I’m thinking the next time in Reno, we come home this way.