Family plans to breathe new life into Tonopah

TONOPAH — Each time she walks into the exquisitely preserved lobby of the Mizpah Hotel in this old mining town, Nancy Cline feels a tremendous sense of peace.

Not to mention accomplishment, pride and even a sense of belonging.

After all, she owns the place.

The successful California vintner, who founded the Sonoma-based Cline Cellars winery with her husband, Fred, runs a rich harvest of other business interests nationwide, but none is more special than the Mizpah, which opened in 1907.

“This is the one we love the most,” she said of the fabled five-story inn, which in its heyday was the state’s tallest building. “Really, it’s a respite from an incredibly brutal, technological, fast-paced world. I feel the escape every time I go there.”

The Clines bought the hotel five years ago, when many of the community’s 2,500 residents might have considered them newcomers, but Nancy Cline’s family roots here date back more than a century, when the twin frontier towns of Goldfield and Tonopah were the bustling center of the state’s epic gold and silver boom.

Cline’s grandmother, Emma Ramsey, was once the postmaster of Goldfield. And her great uncle, Harry Ramsey, one of Tonopah’s first settlers, owned the first saloon in town, a crude affair with a tarp roof not far from where the Mizpah now sits.

He later earned his fortune ($26 million in today’s dollars) after staking a claim in one of the area’s most prosperous silver mines.

But for 58-year-old Cline, becoming the absentee owner of the Mizpah isn’t enough of a footprint in the central Nevada region her ancestors helped settle. So the family has embarked on a plan to breathe new civic and financial life into a town that many Las Vegans write off as a mere gas-and-bathroom stop on the daylong drive to Reno.

With renovating the Mizpah, which had been shuttered for more than a decade, the Clines have built a new microbrewery in town and this summer plan to start converting the 19th-century Belvada building across the street into hotel, retail and apartment spaces. They also plan to open a small casino next to the Mizpah, to be called The Mizpah Club.

‘Something that’s authentic’

The goal is to create a bustling new community in the high-desert that stays true to its historical roots — representing a new American West that is emerging from the old. Visitors can relive the luxury of boom days in a modern setting while exploring local mines, museums and ghost towns, Cline said.

“We want something that’s authentic where people can experience something that’s true,” she said. “Not Disneyland, not Las Vegas, not an illusion.”

The fates of Tonopah and Goldfield and other towns here, Cline said, helped build the West.

Much of the profits that came from the ground went into building San Francisco. she said. “This place is such a significant part of Western history.”

According to legend, Tonopah was founded almost by accident by silver prospector Jim Butler.

Around 1900, he went searching for a burro he had lost during the night and found the animal seeking shade under a rock outcropping.

Butler picked up a rock to throw at the beast and noticed that it was unusually heavy: He had stumbled upon the second-richest silver strike in Nevada history. A few years later, a local writer penned a poem from the perspective of the mule titled, “Me and Jim Found Tonopah,” which was published in the newly minted Tonopah newspaper.

The poem read in part: “So when you erect Jim’s statue/don’t omit your long eared friend/So gratefully I’ll ‘Haw! He! Haw!/Yes, ME and Jim found Tonopah.”

Soon, dreamers, wanderers and East Coast malcontents flocked to the area, including Texas-born Harry Ramsey, who opened the then-dusty mining camp’s first saloon. Wyatt Earp and wife Josie also briefly opened a bar here.

Years later, as the sagebrush gave way to streets and buildings and the area swelled with money and investors, central Nevada’s gold-and-silver towns became so popular they received more mail each year than even New York City, historians say.

The Mizpah was named for a Bible reference meaning bringing people together. The word was engraved on the wedding ring worn by Butler’s bride. The town would keep its cachet: Jack Dempsey once fought at a local arena (a meeting room at the Mizpah bears his name), and in 1957, Howard Hughes married Jean Peters in town.

After making his turn-of-the-century fortune, Ramsey sent for his sister Emma, who spent several years as one of Goldfield’s leading ladies. Eventually, the wealthy brother and sister relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where Cline’s ancestors continued to thrive.

‘Compelled to honor’

“Tonopah was generous to my family,” said Cline, who grew up in nearby Marin County. “I look at the place, and I am grateful. I feel compelled to honor it.”

On family excursions to Las Vegas as a child, Cline passed often through Goldfield. Decades later, as a married mother of seven children, she and her growing family returned to the area and took a shine to exploring Nevada’s outback.

“We’d lose ourselves in the history, appreciating the perseverance, ingenuity and strength of character it took to make a life in such tough, isolated places,” she said. “The desert is a very wild and brutal environment. The fact that people could build communities there in the middle of nowhere fascinated me.”

But when they decided to invest in the area, they instead chose not Tonopah, but Goldfield. For years, they tried unsuccessfully to buy the hotel there but could never reach the right price.

Then in 2011, a real estate agent informed Cline that the owners of the Mizpah suddenly decided to sell the hotel, which had been closed since 1999.

“They paid $1.9 million,” the agent said, “but I think they’ll take $250,000.”

“We’ll offer them $200,000 and close in five days,” Cline shot back. “Tell them we need to know by Friday.”

Then she hung up, turning to her husband to say, “Dear, I think we just bought a hotel in Tonopah.”

The price was the same amount original owners spent to build the hotel in 1907.

Since then, the Clines have hired dozens of residents in a town that has long relied on the mining industry, the nearby military test range and commercial solar project for its main sources of employment.

Recently, hotel manager John McCormick sat in the Wyatt Earp bar in an elongated Victorian lobby with gilded pillars, maiden statues, period furniture and a 19th-century bank vault that now serves as a gift shop.

A veteran in hotel management, he drove out from Kansas to run the Cline’s new venture. He had never even heard of Tonopah and admits his reaction driving into town was not love at first sight. “I thought, what am I getting myself into?” he recalled.

Then he saw the Mizpah, walked through its doors and was sold. “It was the ‘Wow!’ factor.”

In the months leading up to the hotel’s August 2011 premiere, Cline scrambled to make things ready, while she also completed plans to spend several months in Florence, Italy, with her two youngest children. Two days after the Mizpah opened, Cline left for Italy.

“It was giving birth and letting someone else take care of your new baby for its first nine months,” she said. “I’m probably the only person in the human race to have been in a beautiful apartment in Florence and wishing they were in Tonopah. I was just out of my mind over a special project that’s dear to my heart.”

Cline visits Tonopah and the Mizpah whenever she can. She likes being known by her first name by people she meets on the street. She calls the town “the California of 40 years ago.”

And Tonopah likes her, too.

“She’s so down to earth and easy to approach,” said Bobby Jean Roberts, a former newspaper publisher whose family has lived in Tonopah for five generations. “And what she’s doing has been such a shot in the arm to our community. How can we not like her?”

Cline’s experiences have been free of the hassles of any similar project attempted in Sonoma. “In Nevada, we were able to renovate a building in six months, something that would have taken five years in California.”

Now a new generation will join in the celebration of the family’s Nevada roots. Cline’s son Ramsey, named after his great-great uncle, is leading the new casino project. His entrepreneurial mother knows that challenges lie ahead.

“I tell him that real life starts,” she said, “when you try to run a business in Tonopah.”

News Videos
Henderson fails to investigate the drug overdose death of one of its officers
Henderson Police Department's internal affairs did not investigate the 2014 drug overdose death of an officer. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Syphilis Awareness Day
Dr. Joe Iser, District Health Officer of the Southern Nevada Health District, discusses the effects and issues with syphilis in the Las Vegas community on April 16, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas diocese IDs 33 ‘credibly accused’ of sexual abuse
The Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas released a list on Friday of 33 “credibly accused” of sexual abuse who at some point served in the Las Vegas Valley. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CCSD Arbor View meeting
The Clark County School Board hears from the public about racial tensions at Arbor View High School on Thursday, April 11, 2019. (Amelia Park-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Parents of autistic student battle Clark County School District
Joshua and Britten Wahrer, parents of a special education student, are battling the Clark County School District for the right to equip their son with a monitoring device. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Metro homeless outreach a shift in strategy
Lt. Joe Sobrio discusses the new homeless outreach team for Metro. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prayer for Opportunity Scholarships
Las Vegas students and adults hold a prayer meeting about the Opportunity Scholarship program on Thursday, April 4, 2019. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Solar scams on the rise in Nevada
As Nevada’s solar industry has made a resurgence, solar scammers have followed suit.
Clark County schools and the late bus issue
Year after year, late or no-show buses in the Clark County School District draw the ire of parents and students alike. One year the problem even prompted a parent to crack a school bus window in frustration over a late drop-off. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
I-15 southbound congested near Primm Sunday afternoon
Drivers heading toward California on Interstate 15 should expect heavy traffic and a 13-mile backup Sunday afternoon.
Learning lifesaving skills in advance of fire season
Students and firefighters attend a training session at Fire Station 80 in Blue Diamond, Saturday, March 30, 2019. The training session helps volunteer firefighters obtain necessary annual certification to work wild fires.
Car restoration behind prison walls
Inmates share their experiences working for the Southern Desert Correctional Center auto body shop in Indian Springs while learning valuable skills.
Parent remembers Las Vegas boy killed by car
People visit a memorial at the intersection of South Fort Apache Road and West Arby Avenue at at Faiss Park Wednesday, March 27, 2019, where Jonathan Smith, 12, of Las Vegas, died after he was struck while crossing Fort Apache Monday. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Couple left with surprise medical bills after visit to the hospital
Michael Pistiner took his wife, Marta Menendez-Pistiner, to the ER in January after she fainted twice and appeared to be having a seizure. Despite paying $856 monthly for health insurance, the two, self-employed musicians, were stuck with more than $5,700 in hospital and doctor bills after than hour-and-a-half visit. Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Las Vegas police brief the media on fatal crash
Metropolitan Police Department Capt. Nick Farese addresses the media about a car accident at South Fort Apache Road and West Arby Avenue that left one minor dead and one hospitalized on Monday, March 25, 2019. (Mike Shoro/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Arbor View parent talks about racial issues at the school
Lawanna Calhoun, a former Arbor View parent, talks about the state of the school. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jim Foley talks about 30 years of living HIV-positive
Jim Foley, who was diagnosed as HIV positive 30 years ago, talks at his home in Las Vegas on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Traffic Slows to a Crawl on I-15S Near Primm
Traffic slowed to a crawl around 2:30p Sunday, on I-15S near Primm, Nevada.
Homeless residents speak about safety
The homeless residents living at the corner of Owens Ave. and Main St. reflect on how they feel about their safety after two homeless men died, one was hit crossing the street and another was beat to death by another homeless man. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
CCSD Superintendent address alleged racially motivated threats at Arbor View
CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus F. Jara gives update on alleged racially motivated threats against Arbor View High School, and says such threats will not be tolerated. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Super Bloom Near Lake Elsinore, California
Crowds packed the hills near Lake Elsinore on Saturday to capture a rare selfie amidst the super bloom of poppies turning the landscape purple. The super bloom was caused by the larger rainfall this year. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fiery accident in Las Vegas
A three-car accident on Spring Mountain Road around 6:30 pm on Monday night
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Stardust implosion anniversary
Twelve years ago today, the Stardust Resort and Casino was imploded. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Lawsuits filed against security contractors at Nevada National Security Site
Two lawsuits were filed today against the current and former government security contractors for the Nevada National Security Site, one on behalf of Jennifer Glover who alleges sexual discrimination and assault and the other on behalf of Gus Redding who alleges retaliation after he gave statements supporting Glover’s claims. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New housing option helps Las Vegas moms keep kids while kicking drugs
WestCare Nevada Women and Children’s Campus in Las Vegas has added a new transitional housing wing for women who have completed the inpatient treatment at the behavioral health nonprofit to help them as they go through outpatient treatment, shore up their finances and prepare to secure long-term housing. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Teenager in critical condition after being struck by an SUV in Henderson
Authorities were called about 2:45 p.m. to the scene in the 2100 block of Olympic Avenue, near Green Valley Parkway and Sunset Road. The teenager was taken to University Medical Center in critical condition. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Water Question Part 3: Conservation loves a crisis
Future growth in the Las Vegas Valley will rest almost entirely on the community’s ability to conserve its finite share of the Colorado River.
The Water Question Part 7: How much can we grow?
Many experts agree that Southern Nevada can continue to grow, so long as residents are willing to do what needs to be done to stretch our crucial resource as far as it will go.
The Water Question Part 6: How many people can Southern Nevada’s water sustain?
The number can swing wildly depending on a host of variables, including the community’s rates of growth, conservation efforts and the severity of drought on the Colorado River.
Local Videos
Property Brothers visit Michael’s in Las Vegas Valley
Twin brothers Jonathan and Drew Scott are the hosts of Property Brothers, the hit HGTV show where they help couples find fixer-uppers and transform them into dream homes. In 2018, the brothers collaborated with Michael's on their first custom framing program. Today they're releasing new frames into that collection that range from natural to bright looking. Jonathan and Drew discuss their brand and why frames was something they wanted to pursue. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
I-15 traffic jam
A semitrailer stopped in the middle of Interstate 15 near Charleston Boulevard has slowed traffic in central Las Vegas Wednesday morning, April 17, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rainy Tuesday
The Las Vegas Valley saw cooler temperatures and rain Tuesday afternoon. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Tiger Woods Bettor Collects
James Adducci bet $85k on Tiger Woods to win the Masters. He collected his $1.19M from William Hill sports bet in the SLS today. (Mat Luschek /Review-Journal)
Endangered frogs released at Springs Preserve
Dozens of endangered Relic Leopard Frogs were released at the Cotton Grove inside Springs Preserve in Las Vegas, Thursday, April 11, 2019
Vintage World War II aircraft arrive at Henderson Executive Airport
The Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom tour comes to Henderson Executive Airport with a B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, B-25 Mitchell, P-51 Mustang and a P-40 Warhawk. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Honoring Pearl Harbor veteran
Ed Hall, a Pearl Harbor veteran in Las Vegas, is honored with Quilt of Valor during an event in a Las Vegas. (Erik Verduzo/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UNLV Anthropology professors excavate Maya ruin site of Caracol, Belize for 36 years
The husband-and-wife team of UNLV anthropologists has spent several months a year at the remote site of Caracol in the jungles of Belize, excavating ruins and uncovering secrets from the region’s once-dominant civilization. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Things to remember when adopting a rabbit this Easter season
As Easter and spring time approach, some people may be tempted to adopt a rabbit for the holiday. But like adopting any animal, it is important to be responsible and know what a rabbit requires to be a happy, healthy pet. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bike Giveaway in Las Vegas - Piero’s Italian Cuisine
Evan Glusman of Piero’s Italian Cuisine hosted a party in the restaurant’s parking lot to distribute over 150 bikes to local kids. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Charleston/I-15 ramp configuration
The new Interstate 15/ Charleston Boulevard ramp configuration was unveiled Tuesday morning. (Mick Akers/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Northwest Vegas farm's abandoned pig problem
Someone abandoned a several hundred pound pig at Sharon Linsenbardt's farm. Her farm is a rescue for animals, but she doesn't have room or resources to take on another such creature, so she's asking the community for help. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Chalk Talk: Black Student Union
Students talk about the Black Student Union in the latest episode of Chalk Talk. (Angus Kelly and Amelia Pak-Harvey/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Individuals with Parkinson's Disease participate in dance class
Pamela Lappen leads a dance class for individuals with Parkinson's Disease at the Nevada Ballet Theatre in Las Vegas, Thursday, March 28, 2019. Caroline Brehman/Review-Journal
Animal Foundation Preps Pups For Best In Show
The Las Vegas Animal Foundation is preparing its prime pups for their 16th annual Best in Show event, which takes place at the end of April. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Dog Yoga At Hydrant Club
The Hydrant Club in downtown Las Vegas, is a social club for dogs and their people. Recently the club started hosting dog yoga. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Butterflies At The Springs Preserve
The butterfly habitat is now open at the Springs Preserve. Learn about butterflies and take in the peaceful surroundings. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
The Bellagio Conservatory's spring display has a Japanese theme
The Bellagio's conservatory is hosting around 65,000 flowers, to form a Japanese theme this spring. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bonnie Springs closes (Caroline Brehman/Kimber Laux)
Bonnie Springs Ranch near Las Vegas officially closed its gates Sunday, March 17, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Honoring a fallen North Las Vegas Police officer at his namesake school
The 20th Annual Raul P. Elizondo Honor Day celebrates the fallen North Las Vegas Police officer's legacy at his namesake school. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Windy day in Las Vegas Valley
The Review-Journal's camera on the under-construction Las Vegas Stadium the was buffered by high winds on Wednesday, March 14, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
March gloom falls on Las Vegas
After a rainy overnight, gloomy skies hover over Las Vegas Tuesday morning. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
John Katsilometes gets his head shaved at St. Baldrick's
Las Vegas Review-Journal man-about-town columnist John Katsilometes gets his head shaved by former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman during St. Baldrick's Foundation shave-a-thon on the Brooklyn Bridge at New York-New York in Las Vegas Friday, March 8, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The Blue Angels take flight over Las Vegas Strip
The Blue Angels’ U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron flew their signature Delta formation over a part of the Las Vegas Strip, McCarran International Airport and east Las Vegas and were scheduled to fly over Hoover Dam. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Gross World Records
A group of about 20 children gathered around a TV at Sahara West Library on Feb. 27 for a history lesson on the most disgusting world records.
Graduation for Renewing HOPE program
The Renewing HOPE program graduation for homeless who spend nine months in Catholic Charities program. Graduates are preparing to enter the workforce. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Car crashes into Starbucks near Las Vegas Strip
Lt. William Matchko of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police gives details about a car crashing into a Starbucks at Sahara Avenue and Paradise Road, near the Las Vegas Strip, on Friday, March 1, 2019. (Jessica Terrones/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Car crashed into PT’s Gold
A 60-year-old man who police believe was impaired drove into a PT’s Gold at Silverado Ranch and Decatur boulevards Thursday night, Metropolitan Police Department Lt. William Matchko said. The driver was hospitalized and is expected to survive. A man inside the bar was hit by debris but drove himself to the hospital, Matchko said. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Driver crashes vehicle into PT’s tavern in south Las Vegas (part 1)
A driver suspected of impairment crashed a vehicle into the wall of a PT’s Gold tavern, at 4880 W. Silverado Ranch Blvd., in Las Vegas on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Driver crashes vehicle into PT’s tavern in south Las Vegas (pullout)
A driver suspected of impairment crashed a vehicle into the wall of a PT’s Gold tavern, at 4880 W. Silverado Ranch Blvd., in Las Vegas on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
It is a rainy Valentine's Day in Las Vegas - Video
These scenes come from the Las Vegas Stadium LiveCam (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Life Videos
MAGIC fashion convention showcases men's clothing trends
The MAGIC fashion convention has come to Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to showcase some of the hottest clothing trends for men. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Army medic’s Afghanistan story told in new book
The graphic novel “Machete Squad” is based on journals written by Las Vegan Brent Dulak.
Las Vegas man talks about losing his wife
Dwayne Murray, 37, lost his wife, LaQuinta while she was at Centennial Hills Hospital. A jury awarded him $43 million last week after it said the hospital failed to perform the standard of care in administering a drug for her sickle cell disease.
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing