Mapes Hotel (site)

The 12-story Mapes Hotel became the tallest building in Nevada when it burst onto the Reno scene in 1947. Its prime location on the northeast corner of the Truckee River and Virginia Street had become available in 1934, when the old post office was replaced by the Art Deco-style building directly across the river.

The descendant of a pioneering Reno family, Charles Mapes, Sr., and his wife Gladys bought the parcel and hired architect H. F. Slocombe of Oakland, California to draw up plans for a luxury hotel influenced by the Art Deco style of New York City’s Empire State and Chrysler Buildings. Construction was held up by the death of Charles, Sr. and the shortage of building materials prompted by the onset of World War II.

Charles Mapes, Jr. was finally able to start construction on the hotel in January 1946, and the Mapes Hotel officially opened on December 17, 1947. On opening day, the Mapes family announced, “The hotel is informal in keeping with the western tradition which makes Reno so hospitable. Come in full dress if you want any time…or come in cowboy boots. You will feel equally at home.”

With eight floors of guest rooms plus a lobby, mezzanine, and service floor, the hotel served as a prototype for the vertical hotel casino. Its crown jewel was indisputably the 12th floor Sky Room, with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlooked the Truckee River, Virginia Street, and the Sierra Nevada mountains beyond. At a time when few Reno hotels had their own nightclubs, the Mapes offered dining, dancing, and floor shows as well as gambling areas and cocktail lounges both on the main and top floors.

Entertainment at the Mapes ranged from Liberace to burlesque dancer Lili St. Cyr, with an opening house band or orchestra and a chorus line called the Skylettes. During the 1960 winter Olympics held at Squaw Valley, headliners at the Sky Room were Mickey Rooney and Sammy Davis, Jr. The hotel served as the headquarters for the filming of the 1961 film The Misfits, starring Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe, who stayed in a suite on the sixth floor.

For more than three decades, the Mapes and the Riverside were Reno’s most elegant hotel casinos, remembered fondly as the site for high school proms and local dinner dates as well as world-class performers. Financial struggles prompted by an ill-timed expansion of their Money Tree Casino in 1978 led the Mapes organization to file for bankruptcy a few years later. The building closed for good in 1982, changed hands, and was sold to the Reno Redevelopment Agency in 1996.

Despite a vigorous campaign by preservationists to adaptively reuse the Mapes Hotel, the Reno City Council voted in September 1999 to demolish the building. It was imploded the morning of Super Bowl Sunday, January 30, 2000. By 2008, the site had been paved with concrete for use as a plaza and seasonal ice skating rink.

Images

Construction of the Mapes began in January 1946

Construction of the Mapes began in January 1946

Costs were estimated at between $2,500,000 to $3,000,000, financed by the Bank of America, First National Bank of Nevada, and the Reconstruction Finance Agency, a depression-era federal agency. The YMCA and Majestic theater are visible to the right of the construction site. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

The Mapes was a magnificent hotel

The Mapes was a magnificent hotel

At its two-story base, the hotel had large plate-glass storefront windows and entrances surrounded by decorative terra cotta. The lobby featured the hotel registration desk and three elevators with operators. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

Small rooms and luxury suites

Small rooms and luxury suites

Guest accommodations in the new hotel included 300 rooms just large enough to hold a single twin bed, and forty suites with a living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, and tiled bathroom. Three corner suites could be expanded with up to five additional bedrooms. Image courtesy of the Nevada Historical Society View File Details Page

Guests play craps at the Mapes

Guests play craps at the Mapes

This photo was taken sometime soon after its opening. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

Architectural details

Architectural details

Some of the Mapes Hotel's architectural details can been seen in this photograph from the 1950s. The four-part bay windows projected at the corners and the center of the buildings facade are clearly visible. Other Art Deco aspects of the architectural design included aluminum-framed windows, zigzag brick cornice, and finials placed at intervals along the cornice to emphasize the building's verticality. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

Garage service at the Mapes

Garage service at the Mapes

A 1955 billboard advertises the Mapes Hotel with a line of high-kicking Skylettes. Gus Bundy, photographer. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

Sky Room revenues for Nevada

Sky Room revenues for Nevada

A postcard dated 1956 shows guests gambling in the Sky Room. The caption reads, "City and state proceeds from gambling are used in the alleviation of debts which in other states can only be satisfied with the additional taxation of the citizens." Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

The creative Mapes logo

The creative Mapes logo

The Mapes Hotel logo, appearing on the outside of the building as well as on promotional materials and key chains, featured two cowboys standing side by side with legs akimbo, forming the “M” for Mapes. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

A local landmark

A local landmark

For decades, the Riverside and Mapes Hotels served as Virginia Street's southern gateway to Reno's casino district. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

Playing a role in the filming of The Misfits

Playing a role in the filming of The Misfits

The Mapes Hotel was the production headquarters for the filming of The Misfits in 1961. Here, the film's stars, Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe, pose at the Mapes with Gladys Mapes and Charles Mapes, Jr. Image courtesy of Neal Cobb View File Details Page

Where the action was

Where the action was

The Mapes offered a wide range of entertainers through the years, from the headliners in its Sky Room and Mapes Casino Show Room to performers at the Coach Room piano bar. Image courtesy of Nevada Historical Society View File Details Page

After the Mapes

After the Mapes

For several years after the demolition of the Mapes Hotel in 2000, the site remained vacant. Construction of a public plaza began in 2005. Photo by Max Chapman View File Details Page

Video

Mapes Hotel Demolition

Three views of the implosion of the Mapes Hotel on January 30, 2000.

Video courtesy of KTVN, Channel 2, Reno View File Details Page

Street Address:

10 North Virginia Street, Reno, NV [map]

Cite this Page:

Mella Harmon, “Mapes Hotel (site),” Reno Historical, accessed March 29, 2017, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/9.
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