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The Mizpah Hotel, the Grand Old Lady

The historic Mizpah Hotel was once the most luxurious and modern hotel in the southwestern United States. The hotel was nicknamed the “Grand Old Lady” for its refined elegance and upscale atmosphere. In its heyday, the Mizpah was known across the country as one of the finest hotels in the west.

The Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah, Nevada.
Osie Turner

The hotel takes its name from the nearby Mizpah mine; the mine was the first to boom in the area and was the second largest silver strike in Nevada’s history. The name “Mizpah” is actually of Hebrew origin, meaning “watchtower” or more specifically a vantage point—a very appropriate name for the hotel, since it was the tallest building in Nevada until 1929. The five storied Mizpah also had the first electric elevator west of the Mississippi.

The oldest part of the hotel was originally a bar, the Mizpah Saloon. Wyatt Earp is said to have been a regular and may have even worked as a bartender there. In 1907, construction began and the saloon was converted into the hotel that we see today.

Jack Dempsey, the famed boxer and later Heavyweight Champion of the World, has a connection to the hotel. In June 1915 Dempsey stayed in Tonopah briefly for a bout with the Swedish boxer Johnny Sudenberg. Actually, it turned out to be two bouts—the first match was in nearby Goldfield, Nevada, and ended in a draw, and the rematch was two weeks later in Tonopah and also resulted in a draw. The two boxers fought a third time in 1916, this time with Dempsey winning by knockout. Dempsey is rumored to have worked as a bouncer in the Mizpah, but that is uncertain. Dempsey may have worked temporarily in some of the area mines as well. It is likely that Dempsey would have drunk in the hotel’s bar and probably stayed there while in town.

Regardless of his role in the hotel’s history, the Mizpah’s special events room is named in his honor. The Jack Dempsey Room can be reserved for private parties, weddings, or other special occasions, and also features a full bar. The room marks the exact site of the original Mizpah Saloon.

Tonopah, like all boom towns in Nevada, had its ups and downs, and the Mizpah weathered all of them for almost one hundred years. In 1999, the Grand Old Lady closed her doors and remained boarded up for the next decade. Its prospects looked grim, until 2011 when the hotel was finally purchased and, after some renovations, reopened.

Continue Reading with Part 2: The Ghosts of the Mizpah >

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