Silver State Lodge (site)

The year 1931 was a pivotal one for Reno's developing tourism industry. That was the year the Nevada legislature legalized wide-opened gambling and lowered the residency requirement for a divorce from three months to six weeks.

That same year, Charles Thompson opened the Silver State Lodge on what was then known as the Verdi Highway, the section of U.S. 40 heading west out of Reno toward California. The five-acre property consisted of a grouping of 16 small log cabins and a main lodge building, which was especially distinctive for its hexagonal shape. The cabins, with their knotty-pine-paneled walls and ceilings, were named for trees: The Cottonwood, The Tamarac, The Oak, The Cypress, and the Elm. The Elm was the largest of the cabins and featured a native-stone fireplace. Each cabin had a small kitchen and a front porch. It would have been a cozy spot to spend an extended stay in Reno. The going rate at the time was $50 per day, except in the winter when it dropped to $50 per week.

In its heyday in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, the Silver State catered to enumerable divorce-seekers, motor tourists, stars such as Bing Crosby and Greta Garbo, lounge acts performing in the showrooms, and western entertainers in town for the rodeo. In 1938 it was sold to the Reynolds family, who had long operated an auto court in Elko, and Rodney J. Reynolds ran the property for the next 25 years.

With the completion of Interstate 80 and the demise of the divorce trade in the 1970s, the Silver State Lodge fell into use as low-income housing. The early 2000s brought several proposals to renovate the cabins. One plan was to upgrade the property to attract higher-income tenants, while another proposed to offer use of the cabins to women seeking help from drug dependency, poverty, and domestic abuse.

Unfortunately, none of the plans to preserve the property came to pass and by 2005, the cabins were demolished. All that remains of the iconic Silver State Lodge is the sign on the edge of the roadway.

Images

1930s

1930s

The Silver State Lodge as it appeared in the 1930s. It quickly became a popular place for divorce-seekers and automobile travelers. Image courtesy of Pat Klos View File Details Page

1940s

1940s

By the 1940s, the trees had grown and little cabins seemed even more rustic and appealing. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

Seal of Approval

Seal of Approval

The Silver State Lodge received the seal of approval from several travel organizations, such as the American Motor Hotel Association and the lodging and restaurant reviewer Duncan Hines. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

Repurposed cabins

Repurposed cabins

By 2003, the Silver State Lodge was serving as low income housing. Photo by Max Chapman View File Details Page

The Silver State Lodge in 2003

The Silver State Lodge in 2003

For a brief time, there was a plan to relocate the cabins and use them to house women in crisis. Photo by Max Chapman | Creator: View File Details Page

The final years

The final years

In 2005, the entire complex was demolished. The only thing standing today is the sign seen in the right view of this 2003 photograph. Photo by Max Chapman View File Details Page

Audio

The tourist business was picking up.

Interviewed in 1977, Rodney J. Reynolds, who ran the Silver State Lodge for 25 years, recalls recognizing the growing potential of Nevada’s tourist industry in the 1930s. | Source: Rodney J. Reynolds: A Cold War Politician of Nevada in the Fifties. Transcript of an oral history conducted by Bruce Walker Reynolds, University of Nevada Oral History Program, 1977. | Creator: University of Nevada Oral History Program View File Details Page

From divorce-seekers to tourists

Interviewed in 1977, Rodney J. Reynolds, who ran the Silver State Lodge for 25 years, describes converting the property from a temporary residence for divorce-seekers to a motel for everyday tourists. | Source: Rodney J. Reynolds: A Cold War Politician of Nevada in the Fifties. Transcript of an oral history conducted by Bruce Walker Reynolds, University of Nevada Oral History Program, 1977. View File Details Page

Street Address:

1791 West 4th Street, Reno, NV [map]

Cite this Page:

Mella Harmon, “Silver State Lodge (site),” Reno Historical, accessed May 24, 2017, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/21.

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