Louis' Basque Corner has been a beloved local restaurant for nearly 50 years, but the building it occupies has a much longer history. Stone mason John Barrett built the Hotel Richelieu on the corner of Peavine Street (now Evans Avenue) in 1907, on property where he operated his successful marble and granite company. An Irish immigrant, Barrett, along with his son, made many of the headstones in area cemeteries, as well as the granite pillars at the main entrance to the University of Nevada campus. He also carved the stone representing Nevada for the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.
Located near the depot that served the Southern Pacific Railroad and Virginia & Truckee Railroad, and by 1910, next door to the new N-C-O Railway depot, the Hotel Richelieu had 35 rooms and immediately enjoyed a great deal of business.
By 1913, the Richelieu found itself on the route of the new Lincoln Highway, which brought an increase in automobile tourism. It also operated as a boarding house, serving the divorce trade as well as some Basque sheepherders who came to Nevada from the Pyrenees Mountains of France and Spain. The sheepherders spent summer and fall in remote areas of rural Nevada with their sheep herds, but when winter came, they returned to town, staying in hotels until it was time to go back to the high desert ranges.
The ground floor housed a series of small groceries, from Staples & Baker to the Lincoln Market. In 1936 it became the Lincoln Bar, a 24-hour establishment offering “booths for ladies.” After World War II, the hotel was renamed the Hotel Dude, perhaps as a nod to the divorce trade (divorce seekers were known locally as dudes). In the 1960s, it was known as the Lincoln Hotel, with a new Italian restaurant added to the bar space in 1963.
In 1967, Louis and Lorraine Erreguible leased and eventually purchased the building from the Barretts, including the rooming house upstairs, added a second dining room, and transformed the restaurant into Louis’ Basque Corner. Louis had arrived in Reno from Mauleon in 1948, rejecting a job herding sheep in order to work in restaurants and later as a custom cabinet maker. Instantly popular among locals, the restaurant developed a national reputation for Basque cuisine served in the traditional family style. Upon their retirement in 2011, the Erreguibles sold the property, whose new owners continue to operate Louis’ Basque Corner with the same family atmosphere.