Filed Under Tourism

Ox-Bow Motor Lodge

One of many motels that opened on South Virginia Street in the 1950s

The Ox-Bow Motor Lodge opened at 941 S. Virginia Street in 1958. It was the last of three Reno motels to be constructed by Sidney Leggett, the owner of a local outdoor advertising agency who had previously opened the Sutro Motel on East 4th Street in 1951 and the Ho Hum Motel just a few blocks south at 1025 S. Virginia Street in 1953.

Family members don’t recall the origins of the name, but it was possibly inspired by the 1940 western novel The Ox-Bow Incident, authored by Reno native Walter Van Tilburg Clark. The book was adapted into a popular film starring Henry Fonda in 1943. References to the imagery, themes, and icons of the American West were common in the names of Reno establishments and lodging houses at the time, capitalizing on the popularity of the West in American culture.

The Ox-Bow and the Ho Hum were just two of many motels established along South Virginia Street in the 1950s and 1960s. Others included the Longhorn Motel, Caravan Motel, 777 Motel, Eldorado Motel, and Virginian Motor Lodge. All took advantage of the postwar surge in motor travel that brought all sorts of visitors to Reno to try their hand at gambling, secure a quick divorce, or just experience the area’s recreational and scenic amenities. The location was ideal, as South Virginia Street was not just a busy thoroughfare but served as the north-south highway through town until the construction of U.S. 395/580 in the 1970s.

The Ox-Bow, which replaced a used car lot and small frame house, was thoroughly modern for its time. It featured 27 rooms, each with tiled bathrooms and individual controls for air conditioning and heat. Its roof, like that of the Ho Hum Motel, was laid with Spanish-style red barrel tiles. The motel operated under the same name until the early 2000s, when it was renamed Best Bet Motor Lodge.

Images

Ox-Bow Motor Lodge postcard
Ox-Bow Motor Lodge postcard An early postcard of the Ox-Bow Motor Lodge, which opened at 941 South Virginia Street in 1958. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1960
Ox-Bow Motor Lodge sign, 1986
Ox-Bow Motor Lodge sign, 1986 A color image of the neon sign for the Ox Bow Motor Lodge, lit up at night. Source: Neon in Nevada Photograph Collection, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, UNLV Creator: Chelsea S. Miller Date: 1986
The Ox-Bow on the Ox-Bow Lodge sign
The Ox-Bow on the Ox-Bow Lodge sign An image of an ox-bow alternated with the words "Ox-Bow" at the top of the Ox-Bow Motor Lodge sign. An ox-bow is the u-shaped collar placed around an ox's neck to which a plow is attached. Source: Neon in Nevada Photograph Collection, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, UNLV Creator: Chelsea S. Miller Date: 1986
Best Bet Motor Lodge
Best Bet Motor Lodge The Ox-Bow Motor Lodge was renamed Best Best Motor Lodge in the early 2000s, and its neon sign was changed accordingly. Creator: Alicia Barber Date: 2015

Location

941 South Virginia Street, Reno, Nevada

Metadata

Alicia Barber, “Ox-Bow Motor Lodge,” Reno Historical, accessed April 12, 2024, https://renohistorical.org/items/show/278.