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Mapes Hotel and Casino

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1946–1947, F. H. Slocombe. 2000, demolished. 10 N. Virginia St.
  • Mapes Hotel and Casino

For many years the Mapes flourished as “the place to be” in Reno. The first high-rise hotel and casino built in the United States, it became the prototype for later casinos in Reno, Las Vegas, and Atlantic City. Until the city of Reno imploded it on Super Bowl Sunday in January 2000, the twelve-story hotel occupied a prominent site in downtown Reno along Virginia Street and the Truckee River. Once the tallest building in Nevada, the Mapes in its later years was dwarfed by large, boxy office towers and casinos looming just to the north.

At its two-story base, the Mapes had large plate glass storefront windows and entrances surrounded by decorative terra-cotta. Above, the L-shaped reinforced concrete structure accommodated eight floors of guest quarters, a service floor, and a crowning sky room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Truckee River and Virginia Street. Curved, four-part window bays projected from three corners of the building, as well as from the center of the facades. The windows themselves, short, double-hung, and aluminum-framed, were characteristic of Art Deco. A zigzag brick cornice in high relief emphasized the verticality of the hotel, as did finials placed at intervals along the cornice.

F. H. Slocombe designed the building in the late 1930s, but World War II prevented construction until 1946–1947. The Mapes had been one of only three remaining large Art Deco buildings in Reno; the other two are the Reno Post Office and the El Cortez Hotel (1931). Of the three, the Mapes was the largest.

Patrons valued the hotel's size and modern simplicity. Hollywood also favored the Mapes; it appeared in numerous films, including The Misfits and Desert Hearts. Yet, as the casino industry matured, other characteristics, such as large, gaudy, and glittery interiors with little or no natural light, became popular with casino moguls. By today's standards, the Mapes was considered too small to be profitable. The hotel closed in 1982. Despite the interest of numerous potential buyers who proposed mixed uses, and its inclusion on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of the Eleven Most Endangered Places of 1998, the Mapes remained empty. Although the city has witnessed some preservation successes in recent years, the loss of the Mapes (the only structure on the National Trust's Most Endangered list to be demolished) bespeaks the city's continued lack of commitment to integrating preservation of historic structures into the planning process.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Julie Nicoletta
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Citation

Julie Nicoletta, "Mapes Hotel and Casino", [Reno, Nevada], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/NV-01-NW017.

Print Source

Buildings of Nevada, Julie Nicoletta. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, 72-73.

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