Hotel Last Frontier
Highway 91
1942 - 1959
Hotel Last Frontier
Photo from the Mark Englebretson Collection
Hotel Last Frontier
Photo from the Mark Englebretson Collection

Audrey Welshans
Grade 2

Pam Goertler
Grade 2

James Campiglia
Grade 2

Doug Deems
Grade 2

The second hotel on the strip
Late in 1941, Texas millionaire R.E. Griffith and his nephew Bill Moore were planning to build a new hotel in Deming, New Mexico. The hotel was to be called Last Frontier. While on a trip west, to buy equipment for the new hotel, they stopped to rest at El Rancho Vegas. Seeing the success that Tommy Hull was enjoying, they canceled their plans for the new hotel in New Mexico, deciding instead that their hotel should be built on Highway 91, about a mile south of the El Rancho Vegas.

Starting construction in 1941 meant working within wartime restrictions. New construction was supposed to be limited to projects for the war effort. But...the war effort exempted anyone who could prove that they had the materials before the restrictions went into effect. Submitting a list of material, Griffith and Moore were able to prove they already had the materials. The catch was, the War Board had the authority to commandeer the materials for the war effort, and the list told them exactly what was available. They came to the hotel construction site, and seized virtually all of Griffith and Moore's electrical materials.

Undaunted, Moore bought a couple of old mines and stripped the wiring and conduit out of them. To conserve materials Moore, an architect, incorporated the existing 91 Club (formerly the Pair-O-Dice) into his building plans. He bought the bar and the French beveled glass barroom entrance out of the historic Arizona Club and used them in the new hotel. Griffith and Moore were able to open their 100-room hotel on October 29, 1942.

R.E. Griffith, who had built and run a chain of movie theaters in the South, used his theatrical connections to bring in stars to entertain the guests at the Last Frontier. Tommy Hull, from the El Rancho Vegas, would go to the Last Frontier and approach their entertainers, sometimes offering them double the salary to perform at the El Rancho Vegas. In a similar vein, Griffith and Moore lured many of Tommy Hull's casino employees to work for them.

Griffith died less than a year after the Last Frontier opened.


The Last Frontier Village was an authentic recreation of an old Western town during gold rush days. The Village was created on the grounds of Hotel Last Frontier in 1951, using historic buildings from around the state. Robert "Doby Doc" Caudill was a collector of Western memorabilia. After 35 years of collecting, he had 946 tons of relics, stored in two warehouses in Elko. Bill Moore purchased most of those relics, and under his guidance, they became part of the Last Frontier Village.

Joss House: The Chinese Church, which was built in Elko in the 1860's, was the oldest Joss House left in the United States. It was built to serve the thousands of Chinese who worked to build the first railroad to cross the United States.

Schoolhouse: When Bing Crosby purchased the Kerns Ranch in Northern Elko County, there was a log schoolhouse, with a sod roof, on the property. Bing donated it to the Last Frontier Village, and it was moved, intact, to the property.

Tuscarora Jail: The jail was built in 1870 by nailing 3 thicknesses of boards together. Leg chains were attached to the walls for anyone who needed extra restraint. A prisoner once attempted to burn his way out of the jail, but only succeeded in charring the walls, and he died in the attempt. Note: This jail is currently located at the Clark County Heritage Museum, on Boulder Highway. You can tour this and other historic buildings on the property.

Bird Cage Theater: This was the first building constructed in Clark County (which was then Lincoln County), by a Mr. Ronnow who was in the freighting business. It was later remodeled into a small theater.

Shops: There were several shops available for the tourists, including a cactus shop, lapidary, handwork gift shop, ceramic shop, women's dress shop, men's clothing, Western apparel, and a Sweet Shop (which is also currently at the Clark County Heritage Museum).

Little Church of the West: This wedding chapel was built as an exact replica, at one-half scale, of a famous church in Columbia, CA. The original dated back to the gold rush days of 1849. The Las Vegas version of the church became known as the "Wedding place of the stars", hosting the nuptials for stars such as Betty Hutton, Fernando Lamas and Arlene Dahl, David Cassidy and Kay Lenz, Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thorton. Non-stars get married there, too...including George and Pam Goertler, in 2000!

Frank Lonteen
Grade 2
First published in the Casino Chip and Token News Magazine, Volume 20, Summer 2007 issue.

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