When the 6-story Hotel Nevada opened in 1929, it was the tallest building in the state and its first fire-proof building. Guest speakers were Senator Tasker L. Oddie and Congressman Sam Arentz, and rooms rented for $1.50 and up, “All with private toilet; 85% with private bath.”
Prohibition was in still in effect when the hotel opened, and from the beginning bootlegged refreshment and gambling were available 24 hours a day. “Bathtub Gin” made from raw alcohol, water, and flavorings and “White Lightening” was conveniently supplied by local individuals.
On October 24 the Stock Market crashed and Depression struck and the Hotel Nevada leased commercial space to a bank and drug store as well as providing illegal gambling and booze. When Gambling was again legalized in 1931, the owners immediately installed blackjack tables and slot machines.
On December 6, 1945, a “Shopper’s Luncheon” was advertised at sixty cents. Bell hops in uniform were a common sight during the 1950′s and 1960′s.
Photo: White Pine Public Museum
Ole Elliott, of Goldfield, Nevada, was the next operator of the Hotel Nevada. Elliott and his friend and business partner, Tex Rickard who owned the Northern Hotel and Capitol Club, had been involved with other Ely business establishments over the years. Tex Rickard gained national fame as the promoter of the Jack Dempsey – Jess Willard Heavyweight Championship fight, the first million-dollar prizefight gate. Ole and his wife, Mae were involved with the Hotel Nevada until their deaths, Ole in 1938 and Mae in 1941.
Bud Simpson was a tough, demanding, shrewd and knowledgeable businessman who left a long-lasting impression with everyone who met him. He paid his employees in cash daily because he believed in lots of “walking around money” and he knew the employees would spend some of their salary at the Hotel.
Francis Everett “Bud” Simpson had worked as a waiter while attending telegraphers school in Salt Lake City. The job taught him how to know and understand people, he would later say. “When you wait on tables, you meet the finest and the meanest.”
Bud Simpson bought the hotel in 1956 and he and his wife, Pinky, promoted and managed the business until 1963. They established the Ely Travel Service to promote the Hotel Nevada, offering Salt Lake tourists a “round-trip bus ride to Ely, a free room at the Hotel Nevada, a free round of drinks — all for eleven dollars. And in Ely, four dollars is refunded.”
Simpson knew most of those taking advantage of the offer would spend more money on food, drink and gambling, which would substantially offset the travel service’s offer. He also knew that an “average player will stay to lose, but won’t stay to win.”
The present owners, Bert Woywood and Paul Kellogg, bought the hotel in 1994.