and Twain are among the prominent and the prosperous of
history whose boots have ascended these legendary steps to the Millionaire’s Club of the Washoe. This imposing
structure once offered
an escape from the crude and raucous lifestyle of the miners and
cowboys that frequented the saloons, brothels and faro parlors on C
Street. Here the gentleman that were actually able to hold onto the
riches mined from the Comstock Lode gathered to enjoy a better cut of
tobacco, a finer grade of whiskey and a supposedly more refined level
of discreet female companionship.
At present the stairs are closed off: the upper floors empty and mostly
devoid of human activity accept for the occasional paranormal
investigator and perchance their quarry. On a recent episode of Ghost
Hunters, the crew from The
Paranormal Society presented some intriguing evidence of
the ethereal. Over the years
other inquiries into the reported unearthly phenomena in the building
have yielded similar results.
Luckily one does not need a sixth sense, second sight or a thermal
imaging camera in order to experience the opulence and accoutrements
that was the exclusive domain of Nevada’s silver barons. The original
chandeliers, bar and back mirror that once graced the Millionaire’s
Club are now on the ground floor, and can be enjoyed by all who enter Virginia City’s oldest saloon -
no matter the size of their saddle bag.
the fall of 2001 Fran and I, along with our travel mates Jack and
Kathy, arrived at the Old Washoe Club.
was hoping to encounter some
of the spirits that inhabit what is believed by many to be the most
haunted bar in the western United States. Instead I chanced upon some
of the most spirited people in America.
We began the afternoon with the owner Al, aka “Slow Dance” at the helm.
This congenial cowboy/gunslinger had all the earmarks and trappings of
central casting. By the time his watch and tutelage were over we had
effectively completed “the ways of the old west 101” – a prerequisite,
I suspect, for all tourists from the east.
The changing of the guard put Will in charge of the bar. No hat, no
spurs, no guns; but this retired peace officer personified gravitas,
graciousness and grit. And he also happened to make the best Bloody
Mary this side of the Donner Pass. Glasses were raised until the sun
After a late evening tour of the town we returned to the Washoe. Slow
Dance was once more in residence. We drank, we laughed, and we shared
stories about saloon keeping. A phone call interrupted the festivities.
Apparently a family member was in need of emotional support and
immediate assistance. Al requested that we watch the bar in his
absence. He deferred to my bartending skills and judgment in the event
that additional patrons arrived.
|We were all a bit taken
back by the gesture from a gentleman that we
had only met a few short hours ago. For me personally it was an act
equivalent to being handed the keys to the city. I knew at that moment
that I had found a home under these western skies.
Both Al and Will have since moved on. Unfortunately I’ve lost touch
with Slow Dance; but Will and his lovely bride Norma Jean have become
respected and dear friends. So now Fran and I can indulge our Bloody
Mary habit in the quiet and comfort of their kitchen on the other side
Today the Old Washoe Club is
under the adept and steadfast care of
Sherry and Cliff. Not much has changed since my first visit seven years
ago. The current customers are friendly, colorful, feisty and fun
loving. The former clientele that have passed on occasionally make
their presence known in some dramatic fashion; but these apparitions
are unable to overshadow the corporeal cowboys of the Comstock. For the
real spirits of Virginia City are found in
the generous souls and
benevolent hearts of the living.
OLD WASHOE CLUB
112 SOUTH C STREET
VIRGINIA CITY, NEVADA 89440
NO WEB SITE