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Silver Legacy

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1994–1995, Mitchell Cohan. 407 N. Virginia St.
  • Silver Legacy (Bret Morgan)

With the construction of the Silver Legacy, a joint venture of Reno's Circus Circus and the Eldorado Casino, the city finally acquired a Las Vegas–style mega-resort. The structure, designed by a Reno architect, covers two city blocks fronting Virginia Street, sandwiched between the Eldorado and Circus Circus. The casino's three-wing hotel tower—a common feature of contemporary Las Vegas casinos—rises next to the flat casino base, which supports a 200-foot-high dome framed by the two sections of the tower. During construction the owners switched the theme of the casino from sixteenth-century seaside port to nineteenth-century western mining town. The change mattered little, since the dome could accommodate either program. The casino's street-level exterior mimics a vaguely western Main Street, but does so in a colorful, self-conscious fashion that underscores the function of the buildings as false fronts for the casino within.

Skyways connect the Silver Legacy to its multistory parking garage to the west and to the Eldorado and Circus Circus casinos. Not just narrow walkways, these structures cover the entire street block and contain additional floor space for the hotel lobby and restaurants. They also serve to superimpose mega-resort scale on the existing old-fashioned urban grid of downtown Reno. The skyways have had a devastating effect on the streets below, turning them into dark, uncomfortable tunnels for pedestrians. Unfortunately other casino owners have easily persuaded the city to let them build their own skyways, destroying the streetscape below and privatizing increasing amounts of downtown space.

The dome is the most unusual aspect of the complex. It shelters the two-story casino, whose focal point is a towering headframe that “mines” coins and sends them to the “mill,” a structure housing the cashier's cage. Lights transform the dome's ceiling into a stormy sky, and an occasional bolt of thunder strikes the top of the headframe, making a crash that barely startles the gamblers, who remain enthralled by the blackjack tables and slot machines below.

Writing Credits

Julie Nicoletta


What's Nearby


Julie Nicoletta, "Silver Legacy", [Reno, Nevada], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Nevada, Julie Nicoletta. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, 74-75.

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