Filed Under Gambling

Holiday Hotel

Millionaire Norman Biltz opened the new hotel on the south bank of the Truckee River in 1956.

Reno’s tourism industry shifted into high gear in the years following World War II, as Americans jumped into their cars and hit the highways in search of fun and adventure. Motels popped up along all the major entrances to town, and the downtown casinos were booming.

In 1953, millionaire developer Norman Biltz announced plans to build the Holiday Hotel on the south bank of the Truckee River between Center and Lake Streets. Perhaps most surprising was his insistence that unlike the neighboring Mapes and Riverside Hotels, the Holiday would offer no table games. Instead, its investors planned to promote the area as a sportsman’s paradise, an aspect Biltz thought had been all but obliterated by the city’s reputation for gambling and divorce. “For every ten crapshooters,” he said, “There are a hundred who would rather shoot birds.”

As a major developer of Lake Tahoe, Biltz had good reason to emphasize the region’s outdoor attractions. Still, this approach was a major risk, and even the Wall Street Journal picked up the story, asking, “Can a non-gambling hotel survive in Nevada?” In order to best ensure its success, Biltz and his partners gave the hotel all the best amenities, and upon its opening in December 1956, the Holiday was something to behold. A striking green with rose-colored touches, the eight-story hotel took full advantage of its riverfront location with balconies on all north-facing rooms and a ground-floor dining room called the Rainbow Room with large windows overlooking the Truckee.

The Holiday was the first hotel in Reno to offer full services for motorists. Guests could drive into a spacious garage beneath the hotel and have their bags taken directly to their rooms while they registered. In addition, the hotel had its own game reserve, located 4-1/2 miles east of Dayton, where guests could hunt on 1,000 acres with no license required.

Despite its many attractions, the Holiday’s non-gaming “experiment” didn’t last long. According to Biltz, one week after it opened, “you could shoot a cannon through the place.” In July 1957, the hotel was purchased by Newton Crumley and associates, who immediately added a casino floor to the southwest section of the building. The Holiday underwent many changes of ownership through the years, finally closing in 1998. A few years later, the property was completely gutted and remodeled, reopening in 2001 as The Siena Hotel Spa Casino. Sixteen years later it was sold and extensively remodeled again, opening in April of 2017 as the non-gaming Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel, operated by the Marriott hotel chain.

Images

Before the casino
Before the casino A postcard of the Holiday Hotel before the addition of gaming to the property reveals a much simpler, less showy exterior. Source: Alicia Barber
During construction
During construction The hotel was designed by architect Frank Green, who previously had worked on an expansion of the Riverside Hotel as well as the Golden Hotel. Several large homes were moved to make way for the Holiday. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1956
Holiday Hotel-Casino
Holiday Hotel-Casino In a view looking southeast across the Center Street bridge, the Holiday Hotel-Casino (originally the Holiday Hotel) made a bold statement with its green façade and modern style. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1965
The gaming floor
The gaming floor Slot machines and gaming tables were added to the Holiday within a year of its construction. Investor Norman Biltz later admitted that he had left room on the hotel's ground floor for gambling activities, even though he had insisted the hotel would not offer them. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
Convenient parking
Convenient parking A newspaper ad from early 1957, just after the hotel's opening, touts the convenience of its on-site parking. Not included among the wide range of advertised amenities is gambling, which had not yet been added. Source: Reno Evening Gazette Date: January 11, 1957
Winter Olympics
Winter Olympics A truck advertising the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley passes over the Virginia Street Bridge. The Holiday Hotel-Casino and the downtown post office can be seen to the rear. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1960
City of Contrasts
City of Contrasts A postcard from the 1970s draws attention to the interesting juxtaposition of the Truckee River and the Holiday Hotel-Casino perched on its north bank. Source: Philip Galbraith Date: 1970s
The Siena Hotel Spa Casino
The Siena Hotel Spa Casino After closing in 1998, the Holiday was sold at public auction for $2.5 million. The Siena, seen here in 2010, retained only the building's basic structure, completely renovating its interior and exterior. Creator: Max Chapman Date: 2010
Renaissance Reno
Renaissance Reno Following extensive interior and exterior renovations, the hotel reopened in 2017 as the non-gaming Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel, operated by the Marriott hotel chain. Source: VisitRenoTahoe.com

Location

111 Mill Street, Reno, NV

Metadata

Alicia Barber, “Holiday Hotel,” Reno Historical, accessed June 14, 2024, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/107.