Reno ready to implode history

Sunday will be remembered in Reno for the destruction of a historic landmark much longer than for the football game that takes place that day.

When the Mapes Hotel is imploded at 8 a.m. Sunday, it will mark the loss of an architectural treasure and piece of Reno's past that can never be replaced. It is more than a local loss, or a Nevada loss.

The Mapes Hotel is on the list of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's most endangered landmarks. If the hotel falls, it will be the first time the National Trust has failed. It is a national loss.

There's not much reason now to recount the fame of the Mapes, to invoke the ghosts of Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe. It's also too late, it seems, to talk about the architectural significance of the structure - "an original, rare and classic work of art deco," according to architect Rick Rosachi, writing in the Reno News & Review.

When the dust clears on Sunday, it will be nothing more than a pile of bricks - and those, too, are for sale.

The Mapes has been empty for 18 years now, a symbol of decay in downtown Reno. The city council figured it had waited long enough, although Mapes supporters argue that the council has stacked the deck against legitimate preservation projects all along.

That council, led by Mayor Jeff Griffin, will be remembered for nothing as much as being the people in charge of demolishing the Mapes.

They will add the hotel to the long list of regrets, at least one in every town in America, that let a historical treasure fall to wrecking ball or dynamite.

Carson City has its own - the Virginia & Truckee roundhouse - so we should understand how residents of Reno will look back on this Sunday a year, a decade, a generation from now.

"This wouldn't happen anywhere else," Tim Nelson, a visitor from Petaluma, told a newspaper reporter when he was in Reno for a last look at the Mapes. "If this were anywhere else, they would kill to have this building."

Instead, in Reno this weekend they will kill the building and, with it, a part of the city's heritage.


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