|Dog House||130 North Center Street|
|1935 - 1944|
Photos from the Mark Englebretson Collection
The Dog House was located at 130 North Center Street and licensed from June 1935 to 1944 for slots, 21, craps, roulette, and keno.|
The Dog House was a combination dance hall, entertainment center, casino and restaurant, named in honor of a wire-haired terrier named Poochy. It was opened in June 1935 by Al Hoffman, who spent more than $12,000 in decorating the club.
During the late 1930s and early 1940s, the Dog House was one of Reno's most heavily patronized clubs. One of its slogans was "The Divorcee's Haven". In its early years, the Dog House had twenty-eight hostesses and offered continuous, twenty-four-hour entertainment. Proprietor Al Hoffman led the house orchestra. Charlie Dennis, formerly of San Francisco and Sacramento, opened the club as master of ceremonies and director of entertainment.
The Club seated more than 250 people and was decorated in a modernistic style. A mural of typical Seirra Nevada scenery was painted on the north wall. There was a dance floor and a stage, and a large bar along one side of the building.
The club featured a wide range of entertainers, including torch dancers, hula dancers, jazz dancers, Orential fan dancers, tap dancers, striptease dancers, vocalists, and magicians. Among the acts were Joan Morrow, "the Lady of the Fans"; the Holiday Revue; Nan Bittner; Pauline Lewis; and hundreds more.
A short time after the Dog House opened, Al Hoffman took in two partners--Vic Williams, who was also club manager, and Phil Curti. In April 1938 Curti announced that the Dog House would close on January 1, 1939. The building was to be demolished and a brand-new club would be built on the site.
The owners spent $80,000 building the new Dog House. When the business reopened on April 1, 1939, it featured a western theme. From decorations to employee costumes, the spirit of the Old West was captured by the lively nightclub. All the musicians, bartenders, dealers, and waitresses wore colorful cowboy or cowgirl outfits.
Al Hoffman claimed to have the largest nightclub in Nevada. He had the greatest number of entertainers, hostesses, waitresses, and musicians ever gathered in any cabaret in the state up to that time.
The outside building presented a striking appearance. The exterior had been completely renovated, a new sidewalk laid, and beautiful new neon signs erected. Neon lighting throughout the Dog House interior accentuated scenes from the covered-wagon days and the colorful lives of the prospectors. On the walls were pictures of ranch life and Latin American scenes formed from rock inlay work in multicolored stones, laid by William Hemstalk of Quincy, California. The walls behind the huge bar held murals depicting typical Nevada desert scenery. Neon logs "burned" on the musicians' stands, and the band instruments and piano were reconditioned, as was the gambling equipment. Some dining tables were in a rustic style that resembled split tree trunks. Eight dozen new chairs were put in, and ranch house-style dining booths with mahogany tops lined the walls. More than fourteen thousand feet of knotty pine, cedar, and red fir were used in the interior. Neat tilework was featured in the new restrooms. Meals were served twenty-four hours a day, and the popular chef T. F. Gee featured Chinese specialties in his restaurant. A new master of ceremonies, Jerry Owens, was hired to preside over the continuous floor show, which featured over a dozen acts.
In August 1939 the district attorney revoked the Dog House's gaming license, which had covered ten slots, one roulette game, one craps game, and one 21 game. Shorty King and George "Shorty" Coppersmith were operating the gambling and pled guilty to operating a crooked wheel. Phil Curti and Al Hoffman, the owners immediately started action to have the license restored, claiming that the crooked wheel was being operated without their knowledge. King and Coppersmith were both found guilty. Coppersmith was fined $1,000 and King was fined $1,000 and sentenced to six months in jail.
Gaming reopened in January 1940. The tables and the slots were leased to the Block N Club, and Dick Kolbus operated the games there for a short time. Gaming continued until 1944. All during the early 1940s, the Dog House was noted for its fine entertainment, Chinese food, dancing, and gaming.
In April 1944 Al Hoffman and Phil Curti closed the Dog House. They completely renovated the building, and when they reopened in May 1944 they also changed the style of operation and the name--it became the Tropics. Later, the building housed a bowling alley, a nightclub, Harrah's employment office, a restaurant, and eventually part of the Cal-Neva's personnel office.
Late in 1994 the building was razed. As of 1999 the site was part of the Cal-Neva's parking garage on the east side of Center Street.
According to Dwayne Kling