CARSON CITY -- Once the tallest building and most splendid hotel in Nevada, the fabled Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah will open Saturday , 12 years after it was last boarded up.
Owner Nancy Cline is confident the five-story, 55-room hotel along U.S. Highway 95 midway between Las Vegas and Reno soon will turn a profit.
"We are not concerned about the risk," she said. "The potential for gold mining in this area is huge. Solar energy, too. These companies are investing millions. It is unbelievable how many people are coming from exploration companies. There are days every hotel in town is sold out because of the miners."
Others such as the late Frank Scott, co-founder of the Union Plaza, shared similar dreams about reviving the Mizpah. Those dreams died as Tonopah went through continual booms and busts.
Today, just 2,488 people live in the Nye County town. Las Vegans know it as the place to gas up or stop at the McDonald's before the final four-hour haul into Reno. The Nevada Department of Transportation measured the daily traffic count in Tonopah last year at 4,100 vehicles, down from 5,800 in 2001.
But Cline said she and her husband, Fred, didn't have to sink a lot of money into restoring the hotel. They bought the Mizpah for $200,000 in February, the same amount of money it cost to build the hotel in 1907-08.
In all, they have spent less than $1 million purchasing and restoring the old hotel.
They thank Scott for that. He invested $4 million to $6 million in restoring and reopening the hotel in the late 1970s.
"He literally saved the building," Cline said. "His daughter is coming to the opening, and we are naming a suite in honor of him."
They have upgraded wallpaper and carpeting and intend to put 40 people to work in the hotel. Twenty-three of the hotel's original bathtubs remain in use.
"This hotel dictates 1907, and we're staying in that theme," she said. "To get out of that theme would be crazy. There is an authenticity to Tonopah that you can't find anywhere else."
A mother of seven, Cline views the reopening as the birth of her eighth child.
The Clines earned their fortune through grapes, operating Cline Cellars Winery and Jacuzzi Family Winery, both in Sonoma County, Calif.
Consequently, fine wines will be featured on the menu in dining areas of the new Mizpah.
During the Mizpah's glory days, lore has it that the hotel was where former heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey served as a bouncer, Wyatt Earp was a regular and Howard Hughes married Jean Peters.
Or so the story goes.
State historian Guy Rocha has debunked those myths thoroughly.
Dempsey even wrote in his autobiography that he never was a saloon bouncer in his life. Hughes married Peters in 1957 at the L&L Motel, down the street from the Mizpah. And while Earp lived in Tonopah in 1902, he was long gone before the Mizpah was constructed.
Rocha said in a story that hotel promoters long have taken "great liberties with the past to enhance the history of the business and attract more patrons." The marketing strategy is an old and unsophisticated one and incorporates the "George Washington slept here" approach.
But not even Rocha can debunk the "Lady in Red" story, at least among people who want to believe in ghosts.
The lady in red was a prostitute who conducted her business with Mizpah patrons in the 1920s. A wealthy man is said to have killed her in a fit of rage when he discovered he was only one of her many customers. He killed her on the fifth floor.
She roams the hotel to this day, according to legend. Those who see her often find a pearl on their pillows or nightstands.
Myth or not, the Clines are promoting the legend on their website.
The Mizpah's unusual sounding name comes straight out of Genesis. A mizpah was a watchtower or citadel where people gathered, often in times of emergency.
For much of the past 25 years, the Clines have enjoyed visiting central Nevada, particularly Tonopah, where Nancy Cline's great uncle, Harry Ramsey, made a fortune in the early 1900s buying and selling silver mines. He also ran a bar across the street from the Mizpah.
But the Clines initially sought to buy another long-closed hotel, the Goldfield Hotel, about 25 miles south of Tonopah in Goldfield. Their offer was rebuffed, but they discovered the Mizpah was for sale.
"We count our blessings," she said. "We are so glad we ended up with the Mizpah. I love history. This is my backyard."
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3901.