Cal-Vada Lodge
Cal-Neva Drive
1935 - 1951
Cal-Vada Lodge
Photo from the Steve McLendon Collection

John Rauzy
Grade 4

Originally built as the La-Vada Lodge by Larry McElvy of Truckee, CA in 1927, the small building at Crystal Bay went through a hodge-podge of name changes over the years. It was indeed built as a lodge, and provided a small speakeasy for those in need of refreshment after a long trip up the rutted and bouncy road from San Francisco.

The lodge took a name change along the way and became the Cal-Vada Lodge when it offered gaming and lodging in two separate locations with a street in-between them. The smaller building, seen in the 1990’s remodeling photo above, is now the Border House at Crystal Bay, owned by the Crystal Bay Club Casino.

The building across the street shared the name the Cal-Vada Lodge and was a busy casino for nearly 20 years. A favorite story is that of 1950’s comedian Phil Silvers, who did a little gambling at the club and had an up and down experience.

Silvers started with a $50 buy-in and started shooting craps while his strong right arm hooked him up with a long succession of winning throws. The chips on his side of the table began to fill the racks surrounding him and he was the life-of-the-party for over several hours.

Cocktail waitresses were getting $25 tips for “free” 50-cent drinks and the dealers were subjected to a litany of jokes, stories, and jabs while the dice flew across the green felt. A large crowd gathered around the table and the only way to get a bet down on the hot table was to stand sideways and muscle your arm and chips between the players already pressed to rim of the table.

Eventually, the dice turned, and with the crashing tide of seven-outs being called, Silvers’ chips began a quick return to the house. When his rows of chips were thoroughly depleted, along with the bills in his wallet, Silvers slipped into a cab and had this advice for the driver: “Don’t stop for any traffic lights and don’t expect a tip, I left my cash at the Cal-Vada.”

The Cal-Vada Lodge became the New Cal-Vada Lodge when Joby Lewis purchased it in 1951. He made few changes to the building before selling it to a group of Reno and San Francisco partners including Bernie Einstoss and Frank Grannis in 1955.

The larger building became the Bal Tabarin and was open until after being purchased by Lincoln Fitzgerald in 1959. The casino closed the following year.

This history used with special permission of the author. Al W. Moe. All rights are reserved by Al W. Moe.

Many more stories can be found in the book "Nevada's Golden Age of Gambling" written by yours truly, AL W. Moe available from those crazy online bookstores like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. All of Al's great books can be ordered Angelfire Press - where it gets shipped for FREE!