Mapes
Corner of First & South Virginia Streets
1947 - 1982
Mapes
Photo from the James Campiglia Collection

Mapes Implosion January 30, 2000

Mapes Implosion ~ January 30, 2000
Photo from the Mark Englebretson Collection




Mark Englebretson
Grade 3

Pam Goertler
Grade 2

Laurence Miller
Grade 2

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Skip Harouff
Grade 3

Mark Englebretson
Grade 3

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Pam Goertler
Grade 2

Norm Guerero
Grade 2

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Laurence Miller
Grade 2

Louie Eliopoulos
Grade 2

Shortly after the conclusion of World War II, in November 1945, Mrs. Charles Mapes Sr. and her son, Charles Mapes Jr., announced their plans to build a ten-story, 250-room hotel at the corner of First and Virginia Streets. Ground was broken on December 1, 1945, and the Mapes became the first high-rise hotel to be built in the United States after World War II.

The Mapes opened on December 17, 1947, with three hundred hotel rooms in a twelve-story building. When the Mapes opened, it contained one of the first night clubs in Reno within a hotel. The Trocadero in the El Cortez Hotel had introduced entertainment shortly before, and the Golden Hotel and the Riverside Hotel soon followed with their own big-name entertainment.

Charles Mapes leased the gaming to Lou Wertheimer, Leo Kind, Bernie Einstoss, and Frank Grannis. They were licensed for three craps games, three roulette games, six 21 games, and sixty-six slot machines.

On December 17 at 7:00 A.M., the 180-seat coffee shop on the ground floor opened for business-the first stage of a gala day-long opening celebration. At 10:00 A.M. the ground-floor cocktail lounge and casino opened. The informal and widely anticipated opening of the Sky Room took place at 4:30 P.M. At 7:30 P.M. a buffet supper for $3.00 a plate was served in the banquet room on the mezzanine level, and the crowds were so large that the buffet lasted until midnight. From 8:00 P.M. until 2:00 A.M. there was dancing in the Sky Room to the music of Joe Reichman and his orchestra.

Huge crowds of people massed around the elevators as they tried to get up to the Sky Room, one of the main attractions of the hotel. The room was beautifully appointed for dancing and dining, and the wait proved to be more than worthwhile once patrons reached the top floor. Around the bar, which took up the west and south portions of the Sky Room, there were so many people that the view from the large windows was mostly obscured. However, people who did gain a glimpse out the windows were thrilled by the sight of thousands of city lights twinkling below. The Sky Room's muted blue and green lights blended with the rest of the décor, and the people in the room were impressed by the beauty of their surroundings.

On the ground level, throngs of people crowded the lobby and the downstairs bar. The casino areas were also crowded, and the games were heavily played. Adding Hollywood color and excitement to the casino area was Hollywood's Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller, complete with long hair, dark glasses, and his unmistakable physique.

The Mapes Hotel and the Sky Room were by far the most exciting attractions in Reno up to that time. The Mapes immediately became the showplace of Reno and a venue for the most famous entertainers in show business. The Riverside and the Golden soon entered the competition, and in the late 1940s and 1950s Reno was considered the entertainment capital of the world. In its heyday, the Mapes featured most of the top names in show business. Liberace made his first appearance there in December 1950, and in January 1951 he was followed by the Will Mastin Trio, featuring Sammy Davis Jr. Other major stars who appeared at the Mapes included Mae West, Judy Garland, Milton Berle, Gypsy Rose Lee, Lili St. Cyr, Ann-Margaret, and many more. During the filming of The Misfits, the Mapes was headquarters for the movie production company, and the female lead, Marilyn Monroe, stayed in a suite on the sixth floor.

In March 1955 Bernie Einstoss and Frank Grannis, who still had almost three years left on their gaming lease at the Mapes, became licensed at the Cal-Vada Club at Lake Tahoe. Charles Mapes objected because the payment on the Mapes gaming lease was 50 percent of casino profits, and he felt that the Cal-Vada (later known as the Bal Tabarin) would represent a conflict of interest for Einstoss and Grannis. Mapes demanded that their license be revoked, but the state refused. Mapes then declared that he wanted to buy up the remainder of the lease, which was to expire on January 1, 1958, for the fair value of the gaming equipment plus the bankroll. Einstoss responded that he wanted $425,000 for the lease.

During this same period, the state questioned Mapes about the status of one of his employees, Bill Pechart. Pechart had been in trouble with the state previously because of his past history, and in 1952 he had been denied a gaming license at the Palace Club. Mapes stated that Pechart was "watching" his money for $35 a day, plus a suite in the hotel and $1,000 a month for expenses.

In May 1955 the state transferred the gaming license of the Mapes Hotel to Charles Mapes only. Mapes was ordered to have Pechart off the property by July 1 and to pay Einstoss $125,000 for the balance of the lease.

Mapes complied with the order about Bill Pechart in an abstract manner. Pechart no longer came into the casino or even on the property, but he did station himself in a parked automobile on the street just outside of the hotel. Any pit matter of importance was presented to him by a runner. Pechart made his decision, and the runner was sent back into the casino with Pechart's instructions, which were followed by the staff. Pechart also maintained full authority over hiring or firing. This arrangement lasted for several months until it was finally stopped by the state.

One month after he took over the gaming license, Mapes opened up the ground floor of the Mapes with six thousand square feet of casino space, ten gaming tables, and 124 slot machines. One month later, in July 1955, the Mapes was licensed for three more 21 games.

In 1957 Glen Thorne was named casino manager. The casino had added two more 21 games to its license and now had fifteen table games.

Also in 1957 Charles Mapes announced plans for a 125-seat restaurant that would extend along the south side of the building facing the Truckee River. The restaurant, called the Coach Room, opened in February 1958.

In September 1958 the Mapes discontinued entertainment in the Sky Room, which was henceforth to be used only for private parties and banquets. (There was still entertainment in the lounge on the first floor.) This policy lasted until June 11, 1959, when Mapes reopened the Sky Room. The opening act was Ken Murray's Blackouts, featuring Marie Wilson.

In July 1960 Mapes petitioned the Gaming Control Board to allow him to rehire Bill Pechart. The Board agreed but stipulated that Pechart was not to be allowed in the pit area or in the counting rooms.

In June 1961 Mapes expanded the ground-floor lounge and initiated a stronger entertainment policy.

The Gaming Control Board finally ended its restrictions on Bill Pechart in March 1963, stating that restriction "no longer served any purpose." Pechart was at that time employed as a credit manager for the hotel. This ruling allowed him to go anywhere in the casino. (In September 1965, while on duty as casino manager in the Mapes Hotel, Bill Pechart suffered a heart attack and died. He was seventy-three years old.)

On October 1, 1965, shortly after Pechart's death, Mapes announced the following appointments: Harold Baker, hotel manager; Jack Sommer, assistant hotel manager and host; and Ray Smith, casino manager.

In September 1968, as a result of a trial that lasted for several weeks, Charles Mapes was awarded $56,400. He contended that his employees had stolen $431,000 from him by manipulating the credit system of the Mapes. The insurance company had refused to pay the claim, and the award from the insurance company came only after a lengthy trial.

The year 1969 ushered in the beginning of big jackpots and the accompanying publicity. The Mapes was one of the first to capitalize on the excitement. On October 31, 1969, the Mapes announced that it had paid what was at that time the world's record jackpot: $9,261.70 on a three-reel, five-coin, dollar slot machine.

In 1973 Julius Pozzi was named casino manager, a position he held until 1976, when Herb Grellman was appointed to that position.

Charles Mapes and the Mapes Corporation began to get in financial trouble in 1979. In 1969 Mapes, along with his sister, Gloria Mapes Walker, opened a small casino, the Money Tree. The casino did a good business, and everything went so well that in 1977 construction was begun on an expansion of the Money Tree. The expansion extended across Fulton Alley all the way to Sierra Street. The two-story addition contained 43,500 square feet of casino space and opened on July 1, 1978-the same date that Circus Circus and the Sahara Reno opened, and the same year that the MGM and the Comstock opened.

So many new hotel-casinos resulted in Reno being overbuilt as far as gaming was concerned. The proliferation of casinos was a major problem for the Money Tree (as well as for many other properties), but when that situation was compounded by soaring interest rates, a lack of parking space, and the absence of hotel rooms, the Money Tree expansion was doomed. That led to a shortage of cash for the Mapes Corporation and of course for the Mapes Hotel.

In January 1980 the Money Tree addition was closed. The following July, the First Interstate Bank announced that it intended to foreclose on several loans that listed the Mapes Hotel and the Money Tree Casino as collateral. The loans totaled $9.36 million of principal and $1.5 million in back payments. Mapes had thirty-five days to make the payments on the loans. When he could not come up with the necessary cash, the First Interstate Bank agreed to provide $1.4 million in operating funds to the Mapes Corporation if a management-consulting firm was brought in to operate the business. Jaeger Industries, a Southern California consulting firm, was hired to operate the property and did so from September 1980 to October 1981.

On November 14, 1980, amid the bank's threats of foreclosure for back payments on loan principals, Mapes filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan to allow payments to the corporation's 710 creditors over an extended period of time.

In January 1981 Jaeger hired Ron Erickson, former general manager of the Onslow Hotel, as general manager of the Mapes. Erickson was terminated in April 1981 and replaced by William Dougall.

All during 1981 and most of 1982, legal maneuvering, threats of foreclosure, public auctions, and foreclosure deadlines came and went, and still the First Interstate Bank continued to give Mapes more time to come up with refinancing or to sell the properties. But it was to no avail. Finally, on December 17, 1982, exactly thirty-five years after it opened, the Mapes ran out of operating cash and closed its doors. The sister casino, the Money Tree, closed the same day. At the time of closure, the banks were owed about $16 million, administration expenses totaled $2 million, unsecured creditors were owed about $880,000, and between five hundred and six hundred employees were owed about $73,000 in back wages.

Sil Petricciani, general manager of the Mapes and the Money Tree, announced to the employees shortly after 5 P.M. that the properties were closing. The announcement at the Money Tree resulted in angry shouting and near rioting. At the Mapes, however, things were quite different. Long-time employees felt sorrow, not just over losing their jobs but over the loss of the Mapes Hotel. The employees loved the Mapes, which was like a second home for many of them, and there was much crying, hugging, and sadness.

The First Interstate Bank obtained title in January 1983, when no one countered its initial $6-million bid at the foreclosure sale. Because the properties owed the bank about $15 million in past-due loans, no money changed hands.

On June 1, 1988, George Karadanis and Robert Maloff, partners in the Sundowner Hotel and other ventures, bought the Mapes Hotel from the First Interstate Bank for an undisclosed sum. They put the Mapes up for sale three weeks later. Through the years there were many prospective buyers and many near sales, but it wasn't until August 1996 that the Mapes Hotel was once again sold. This time the purchaser was the City of Reno. On August 20 the Reno City Council finalized the purchase of the Mapes Hotel from Maloff and Karadanis for a purchase price of $4 million.

On September 24, 1998, the City of Reno announced a $46.6-million plan to convert the Mapes into time-share units. San Diego developer Oliver McMillan is negotiating an agreement with QM Resorts of Sparks. The plan calls for turning the twelve-story hotel into eighty-eight time-share apartments.

According to Dwayne Kling