Lawton Springs Resort
9400 West Fourth Street
1931 to 1978
Lawton Springs Resort
Photo from the Mark Englebretson Collection
Lawton Springs Resort
Photo from the Mark Englebretson Collection

John Rauzy
Grade 4

Lawton Hot Springs was actually supposed to be called "Laughton's" after the properties original owner, Sumner Laughlin. The first signs made for the resort (in the 1880's) were misspelled and rather than order new signs , Laughton allowed his hot springs resort to beknown as "Lawton's Hot Springs."

From the 1920's to 1957, the resort was in the hands of the Mark Yori family, whose Italian ancestors were among Reno's first settlers. During this 30 year period the resort became famous for its large outdoor swimming pool and tree-filled park area. It was the training camp in the 1930's for Max Baer, who later became the world heavyweight boxing champion.

During the 1930's, Yori leased the facilities to various people. In 1931 Felix Turillas and John Etchebarren operated the resort. When Lawton's was first licensed by Turillas and Etchebarren, the casino had one 21 game, one craps game, one roulette wheel and seven slot machines. An Olympic size swimming pool that cost $65,000 to build was also opened in 1931.

Gene Rovetti operated the Club Lawton in 1936 and 1937. In 1938 Greyhound dog racing was introduced. There was a 10 cent admission charge to view the races and there were eight races nightly.

In 1939 John Hickok opened a bar, club and dining room at the resort.

The resort was often closed during the winter months. The bars, restaurants, and gaming area were operated on a sparodic basis, but the swimming pool was always open during the summer months,except for a short period during World War II.

In January 1942 Mark Yori went into partnership with Frank Herman. Yori operated the bar, and Herman took care of the gaming. The club was called the River House from 1942-1943, and for most of that time it featured the entertainment of the Duncan Sisters, Topsy and Eva.

In May 1944 the club was leased to Bob Neeman, who named it Bob Neeman's Reno Rancho. The gaming was operated by "Smiling" Jessy Zilliox, who was licensed for slots, 21, and roulette. Neeman's Reno Rancho naturally featured lots of country western music, and in June 1944 the management proudly announced that Don Sworder, composer of the nation's top tune, "Deep in the Heart of Texas," would appear in the showroom. Evidently Sworder wasn't a big enough name to draw many customers because the Reno Rancho closed in July 1944.

The resort continued to operate for the next several years as a bar and restaurant, and it remained a popular spot for locals,especially in the summertime, when its huge swimming pool and picnic area attracted customers.

For a short period in 1951, Mark Yori was partners with Roy Nelson and Harold Walters on the gaming license. In 1956 Al Figoni and Mark Yori were gaming partners, and in 1957 Mark Yori and Edgar Jolley each had 50 percent of the Lawton Hot Springs Gaming operation.

In October 1957 Mark Yori sold the property to four California investors-Irwin "Bob" Siegel, Carl Long, Stewart Garey, and Robert Clark Jr for $227,878, and in January 1958 Siegel was licensed for one 21 game and became manager of the resort. The following November, Paul Kessinger and Bill Smith purchased the property, and in 1959 Bill and Audrey Smith were licensed as 50-percent owners of Lawton's. In 1962 the property was sold to George Ruppert, Clarence Crandall, Stan Simmons, and Ralph Roberts and was renamed Holiday Lodge.

The property has been closed since 1982. George Benny, who owned it at that time, went bankrupt after spending 16 million remodeling the facility, which he had renamed the River Palace.

According to Dwayne Kling