St. Charles Hotel

From Carsonpedia

St. Charles Hotel with the Firkin and Fox Pub on the ground floor.

The St. Charles Hotel is a historic hotel in downtown Carson City. It is located on the southwest corner of Third and Carson streets; the address is 302 South Carson Street. It was built in 1862 as two separate establishments that were later merged together into one hotel. Currently the top floors are still rented out as hotel rooms, and the ground floor houses the Firkin and Fox Pub. It is considered the second-oldest hotel in the state (after the Gold Hill Hotel), but the oldest one that has operated continuously as a hostelry.

History

The hotel was originally built as two separate buildings. The northern, three-story, section was started on April 1, 1862, and was named the St. Charles Hotel. Construction on the southern two-story building started one month later, and it opened as the Muller Hotel. The builders were George W. Remington and Albert Muller, and they partnered with Dan Plitt who owned a bakery on the corner where the hotel was to be built. The hotel was first advertised in the October 2, 1862 edition of the Silver Age newspaper. It was called "the most desirable and commodious first-class house in Carson," and "the pleasantest resort in Carson and where everything kept by the bar is the best quality."

The hotel also became a major stage stop for Carson City. It held the offices of the Pioneer Stage Co., which employed famed stage coach driver Hank Monk. It was also a popular hangout for state lawmakers when the Legislature was in session. Mark Twain, who lived in Carson City when the hotel was built, was most likely a patron of the bar on the ground floor.

The good times didn't last, though. The days of the Comstock declined, and other hotels, Like the Arlington Hotel and the nearby Ormsby House eclipsed the St. Charles in popularity. In September 1874 the Daily Appeal reported a man committing suicide by strychnine in one of the hotel rooms. In 1890 the St. Charles was renamed the Briggs Hotel, and in 1894 the Briggs and Muller Hotels were combined to form the Briggs House. But 1910 it had been renamed again. this time to the Golden West Hotel. It was run by John Anderson, and had degenerated to little more than a slop house. The restaurant on the ground floor would pay local boys 25 cents a head to bring in jackrabbits to be served for dinner that night.

John Anderson died in 1924, and again in 1928 the hotel changed names, to the Travelers Hotel. The Travelers Cafe and Travelers Bar were on the ground floor, and the second floor balcony was removed around this time. After World War II it was changed again to the Hotel Page, and updated with art deco signage. "Cafe" was changed to "Coffee Shop", "Bar" was changed to "Cocktail Lounge", and a casino was added. The days of the stage coach were long gone, but now the hotel served as a Greyhound Bus depot. But only a few years later, it would go through yet another name change, this time to the Pony Express Hotel. This name it would keep for several decades as Carson City grew up around it.

Several establishments held the ground floor position of the Pony Express Hotel. During the 50s it was home to the Mite As Well bar. In the 1980s it was Jim's Jungle Bar on the corner, and the Hong Kong Cafe at the south end. The hotel was in a bad state by this time. Plaster covered the original brick, the little paint that was left was peeling, and the the building stood as little more than a large stone eyesore on Carson Street. The hotel served as a low-rent flophouse for transients, and violence often found its way to the bar on the ground floor. The St. Charles was in desperate need of a champion to rescue it.

Redevelopment

In 1993, the hotel found its champion. Carson Businessman Bob McFadden bought the hotel that year for $750,000, and proceeded to sink another $250,000 of his own money into renovating it. He stripped off the old plaster and gave it a new coat of red paint, and restored the wooden balcony that used to surround the building. He also fixed up the interior, renovating the rooms to be attractive to tourists. And he kicked Jim's Jungle Bar out of the ground floor, instead bringing in Joe Garlic's, a more upscale eatery. And lastly he brought back the hotel's first name, the St. Charles. The change was apt, because by the time McFadden was done the hotel really did resemble its original self more than it had for over a hundred years. The grand opening crowd for Joe Garlic's included legendary singer Tony Bennent Garlic's Owner Frank Perez now owns the Polo Lounge in Reno, Nevada.

Joe Garlic's restaurant only lasted about 18 months, but in the late 90's the ground floor was occupied by the Cafe Del Rio restaurant, which had been burned out of its old home in the Hunter's Lodge building at Fourth and Carson. The Cafe Del Rio didn't last long either, and soon closed. It later reopened in Virginia City. Bob McFadden put the hotel up for sale in April of 2001 for $1.2 million.

In 2003 the downstairs space was ready for a new restaurant, Devincenzi's. It too failed quickly, closing before a new buyer was found for the hotel. In October 2004 Bob McFadden finally sold the building, for $985,000, to Jenny and Mark Lopiccolo. One month later McFadden died of a heart attack while on vacation in Costa Rica, at age 55.

The Lopiccolo's held on to the hotel for a few years without making many changes, trying to find just the right tenant to put into the cursed ground-floor restaurant space. Finally in 2007 they announced a partnership with Jim Phalan of High Sierra Food & Beverage to open a Firkin and Fox Pub in the hotel. Six months of construction followed, during which the hotel underwent major renovations, including another complete remodel of the exterior. A fresh coat of paint, new awnings, and new signage all went up, and the wooden boardwalk surrounding the building was torn out and replaced. The interior of the restaurant space was gutted too, and completely rebuilt to highlight the old brick and wooden beams of the building. The Firkin and Fox opened in January of 2008 to huge success, and has spawned a rebirth on Third Street that is being felt all over downtown.

Names

The hotel has been known by several names through its history:

  • 1862 - St. Charles Hotel
  • 1890 - Briggs Hotel
  • 1894 - Muller Hotel combines with St. Charles to become the Briggs House
  • 1910 - Golden West Hotel
  • 1928 - Travelers Hotel
  • 1946 - Hotel Page
  • 1953 - Pony Express Hotel
  • 1993 - St. Charles Hotel

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