Last week I wrote about the legendary Mapes Hotel in downtown Reno Nevada. Well, if you cross the Truckee River and walk down a block you’ll run into another landmark hotel, the Riverside.
As you can see, it’s a good, solid structure, almost boring in design. However, at one time it was more notorious than the Mapes. Not because it was a rocking, rioting fun place to stay but for a different, almost more scandalous, reason.
The current structure was built in 1927 reportedly on the spot where the city of Reno was founded in 1861. During its heyday (1930 to approximately 1950) its select clientele stayed in two or three bedroom suites on the upper floors which were equipped with kitchenettes and had been designed specifically for them. Generally they were women traveling alone or with children and servants in tow. Many books and movies set during that time contain references to the Riverside including the “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand and the movie “The Women.”
Another clue to the hotel’s notoriety (if you haven’t guessed yet), the old courthouse is virtually right next door.
After the women no longer needed to trek to Reno for its special services, the hotel went into a tailspin and by the time I knew of its existence it was a moldy though dignified and staid sort of place where one’s grandparents might stay. Finally it closed in 1987. But, unlike the Mapes, preservationists prevailed and the building now serves a community of artists and has an organic coffeeshop in the lobby. What an interesting life that old gal has had!
As to why the Riverside has a place in my heart, well, according to a popular urban myth the Beatles once stayed in one of those multi-room suites on the sixth floor. Only, I know it never happened. It was just the mind fart of a couple of silly girls that somehow got out of control, resulting in an assault on the sixth floor of the Riverside. Unfortunately the word got out at school and for years after I was the butt of many jokes.
I left Reno shortly after high school and only returned for short visits with my family thus I rarely saw any of my old classmates. So when I found out at my 10 year reunion that the kids who’d made fun of me now firmly believed (and supposedly had evidence) that in October 1965 the Beatles hid out in the Riverside Hotel, I felt like I was on an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Even when I told them it was hokum, they stuck by their stories. I, the instigator, was irrelevant. The story had a life of its own and was now entrenched in the minds of people who wanted to believe. (I fictionalized the whole thing a few years back on Wattpad.)
So if you haven’t guessed the Riverside’s claim to fame, here’s one last clue: For many years the phrase “I’m going to Reno” meant only one thing and it generally wasn’t something any man wanted to hear.