It’s been a busy, busy, busy last couple of months getting ready to open the Mizpah’s long-closed doors. But finally they ARE open, and the outpouring of enthusiasm from Mizpah fans far and wide has been humbling to say the least. We’re still tweaking of course, and probably will be for the next few months as the Grand Old Lady gets back in shape, post hiatus. Meanwhile we’re taking reservations by phone and soon online, so go ahead and book your stay. We’ll be ready for you!
Fun! Locals reminisce about their memories of the Mizpah Hotel.
We’re less than five weeks away from opening day and its crunch time. The Mizpah has been gutted from head to toe—all the old, non-working kitchen equipment has been removed, the crumbling floors ripped up, and the ancient lobby restrooms demolished. Needless to say our Grand Old Lady is looking a little bare, which is both frightening and exciting.
But she won’t be like this for long.
New wood floors just went down in the Pittman Cafe and they are beautiful. New wallpaper (finally chosen!) is up in the corridors, the guest rooms have been scrubbed and painted, and new beds and luxury linens are on en route to Tonopah as I type this. Last week we made the exciting decision to have the soaps, shampoos and lotions handcrafted by a local artisan in Sonoma. It took a whole day but we eventually settled on four gorgeous fragrances to complete the Mizpah’s premium amenity offering. Between the super-soft bedding and handmade soaps you might not want to leave your room.
Since the opening date was posted and the ribbon cutting announced (August 27th at noon for those who missed it), the myriad things that still need to be done keep barreling toward me at top speed like an out-of-control, overloaded freight train. What about the picture frames? What about the town history? What about the plants? What about the lights in the vault? Yet my anxiety is no match for my excitement and pride in all of this. Even the looming deadline only scares me every once in a while.
The most exciting news of late is that I was able to speak to Frank Scott’s daughter. Frank Scott renovated the hotel in 1979, and the Mizpah would not exist as it does today if it weren’t for his incredible vision and hard work. Like me, he was driven by a love for the old hotel, and I am thankful every day to him for that. His daughter will be at the ribbon cutting and I can’t wait to meet her in person. That’s all for now. Must get to get back to my living room which is currently buried somewhere under five types of pillows, three types of mattress pads, four or five different blankets, a few sets of sheets, three bed skirts, and 38 samples of wallpaper. See you at the Mizpah!
Saturday. Parade day. A true testament to Tonopah, the Jim Butler Days parade was a bigger deal than we ever could have imagined. Participants from all over the county walked down Main Street with a palpable festive energy. But by far the favorite of all the participants were Diamondback Dave and Dusty—a real live silver miner and his pack burro that carried the new Mizpah logo on his back for all to see. I wanted (the exceptionally well mannered) Dusty to come into the Mizpah lobby during the wine tasting but 350 enthusiastic guests with empty wine glasses beat him to it.
After the parade we watched the mucking event, and the driller event, and a bunch of other things I’d never heard of but came away with new appreciation for how physically demanding life was in the early 1900s. Nothing proves the point better than watching a man load one ton of ore into a bin with in under a minute, using nothing but a shovel and a strong back. The closest I came to heavy lifting—aside from hauling linens up and down the stairs Thursday night with Megan—was engaging Fred in a friendly arm wrestling match. He let me win, and I’ll never admit how I bribed him.
We met so many incredible people, all of whom had stories to tell about the Mizpah. Some were of the Lady in Red, others of great meals and parties, still others about things I dare not put in writing.
Later that evening at dinner, we each went around the table recounting highlights from the day. For my part, it was the fabulous woman who walked up to me on Main Street and flashed a wedding photograph from 1895. She said, “Do you recognize this?” I’d never seen the photo, but at once I saw that it was of Harry Ramsey, my great uncle, and his first wife Demme. It turned out the woman with the photo was the granddaughter of Demme’s best friend, and she had more than just the photo. She also had a letter Harry Ramsey wrote to Demme’s family following her death from small pox in Rome, 1907. They were on a world tour following Harry’s silver mining success in Tonopah when Demme fell ill and passed away.
The picture and the letters, together with the other great stories from the day, reaffirmed our decision to return to Tonopah and buy the Mizpah, and did so in a way that no external or financial validation ever could.
After all was said and done, the Mizpah had a total 15 of us for the weekend and she held up grandly. In signature mysterious form, she sent us home with a significant token. If you’ve read my earlier posts you may know what’s coming next. In the lobby, during the wine tasting that followed the parade, I glanced down and noticed a pearl, just like the ones my brother found when he stayed here a few weeks ago. This one was rose colored though, and not white. And I should mention we’d vacuumed the floor three times prior to guests arriving. Sure, someone could have dropped it during the event, but it seems highly unlikely given otherwise spotless floor. For those of you who don’t know the significance of the pearl, please see the link to the channel three interview.
Hilary and I hit the ground running Friday morning toting sheets, towels toiletries and more up and down five flights of stairs getting ready for the rest of the kids and Fred to descend. After 17 trips up and down those stairs our aching legs prompted a call to our elevator repair man, who promised to have it running within the week. Later I reminded everyone who arrived on Friday night, complaining that the 7 hour drive was so grueling, that it took Harry Ramsey three days by stage coach in the early 1900s to get to Tonopah from as close as Reno. That put the drive, and the non-working elevator, in perspective.
Shortly after their arrival we welcomed the rest of the family with dinner, wine, and an unexpected surprise for the kids: High speed Internet access. Despite our fears, the kids’ first visit to the Mizpah was a huge success. They loved it, and genuinely appreciated the efforts we’ve put forth to restore it.
Whilst exploring, my son Ramsey, his friend John, and Fred uncovered a secret entrance to the Mizpah mine, located in a deep dark corner of the equally deep, dark Mizpah basement. I hope we never stop discovering these surprises and treasures.
After dinner Megan and Peter went across the street to ride the mechanical bull, witness the “Bartender and Waitress” race, and hear the live music well into the night. I am told that Megan out rode Peter by 50 seconds, which I imagine feels longer than it sounds.
Let’s face it. Despite its historical significant and charming quirks, Tonopah is not the most fascinating place in the world, at least as far as kids aged 13 to 24 are concerned. That said, driving up with seven of them, Fred and I quickly found a way to mitigate the barrage of whining that ensured from our brood: Ignore them. To our thinking, how could a family trip to the Mizpah and Tonopah’s famous Jim Butler days not fit into a teenager’s plans? Contrary to their numerous early protestations, they had a wonderful time
My daughter Hilary and I arrived before the rest of the family on Thursday night, knowing full well our punctuality meant that we would be responsible for ensuring everyone else’s comfort and fun the next day. This included finding creative ways to redirect any grumbling about things that were out of our control, like the weather, or the fact that most of the Mizpah’s rooms still lacked televisions.
After a wonderful meal at Mexican restaurant El Marques we hit the sack and slept soundly in preparation for the next day’s festivities.