This rather ordinary 6-story brick building would go unnoticed in San Francisco, but it dominates downtown Ely, and it was the tallest building in the whole state into the 1940s. It is a classic Nevada Hotel, run to the highest world standards but with a personality all its own.
See it first at night, when it seems to have sprung from the pages of “Red Harvest” Dashiell Hammet’s novel noir set in a small western mining city. The glare of neon smears the dark night red above the limo parked in the wash of light at the main entrance. On the sidewalk, a line of celebrity stars glittering names from yesteryear: Hoot Gibson, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Pat Nixon. . . .
Walk inside and enter a symphony for the eyes, part Mozart, part Duke Ellington, part Spike Jones. Spectacular displays of memorabilia, gleaming motorcycles hanging from the ceiling above the gleaming, pulsing, twittering slot machines, objets d’art, and random grotesqueries scattered here and there. In a corner is a carved 4-foot gnome dressed in a tuxedo and holding a top hat.
Check in at the front desk and ascend to your floor in the new $100,000 elevator. Each hallway is decorated with a mural by local legend Larry Bute, who spent a week on each floor, painting his way down from the 6th floor to ground level. Your room, even if it’s not one of the deluxe rooms dedicated to celebrity guests, is nicely furnished and clean. If it is one of the deluxe rooms, after you’ve been in it about five minutes the phone rings. It’s the Front Desk calling to make sure the room is satisfactory and to ask if you’d like a complimentary margarita. Just say yes and it’s on its way up.
I love this place.
Bert Woywood is the managing partner responsible for the accumulation of elegant detail that make the hotel such a delicious experience. He has gathered the eclectic furnishings and memorabilia with a bold taste for the unusual and an eye for a bargain. “It’s like a museum with no theme,” he says. He has bought wagon wheel chandeliers, miniature mechanized dioramas, Roy Rogers memorabilia and the quietly compelling ceramic wall hanging in the dining room. “It has a fascination for people, they come over to it after they’ve finished their meal for a closer look. Sometimes they stand there looking at it for a really long time.”
The restaurant is open 24 hours with a counter and vinyl booths, and a waitress who calls you Hon, just like something out of a black and white movie. The menu offers traditional casino fare, ranging from a $1.49 breakfast (served 24 hours) to Prime Rib, with all-you-can-eat spaghetti somewhere in between. When it was decided to add pizza to the menu, Chef Gino went to Las Vegas to work for a month at one of the restaurants at The Venetian, and learned pizza from Old World masters.
The Kennecott Suite occupies the southwest corner of the 6th floor and was once the realm of visiting copper company executives from headquarters in Salt Lake City. Now the 2-bedroom, 3-tv suite has been completely refurbished (highlights: the high glossy black bedroom suite suggesting Elvis at his most decadent, the hand-painted Mexican toilet, and the magnificent spa) and is available for — get this — $85 a night! This is surely the best hotel bargain in Nevada, maybe the world.
By David W.Toll