In our continuing quest to share our fascinating history, we’re focusing this month on Jack’s Bar, once known as the oldest continuing operating bar in Nevada since 1859. That message has not been removed from the signage still on the building today, though the bar has long been shuttered.
In doing research on the history of the bar, I came across Nevada Myth #44 written by former Nevada State Archivist Guy Rocha. He wrote, “The sign is misleading. While it is true the site of Jack’s Bar has been home to various drinking establishments since 1859, the current building only dates back to 1899.” No matter how you look at it that building had 103 years of serving customers in that very spot, no matter the name prior to its closing in June 2002.
The venerable bar had been known by many names that old-timers might remember. They might have hoisted a beer or enjoyed a shot. They may have lobbied a legislator or met their significant other. Working from the most recent name backwards: Jack’s Bar became Jack’s Bar in 1966. Prior to that, it was known as Angelo’s, Y-Not Bar, Hernando’s Hideaway and the Bank Resort. The first name of this bar was Bank Saloon.
As Rocha writes, this location has lots of history. A dance hall opened on that corner on July 4, 1859. In 1862, it was the Frisbie Hotel and in 1873, it was referred to as the Fifth Avenue House. The wrecking ball hit it in 1892 — then one of the oldest landmark hotels in the city.
It was 1899, that the structure was rebuilt of the sandstone quarried from the Nevada State Prison and opened as the Bank Saloon on Aug. 19. The Carson Appeal reported the opening, “The place is without exception the handsomest building in this city and is an ornament that will remain for years to come as it is built of stone and in a substantial manner.” It even remained standing after three fires hit the block and was the go to bar on the fringe of the red light district — yes, we had one of those, but not since the feds shut down the district in 1942. The last fire in was on April 19, 1998.
Today, the historic structure remains a blight at a popular corner, The historic stones are further deteriorating, paint is peeling, weeds are growing at the crumbling base and some windows are boarded. An interior pully is holding up the leaning walls.
The structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places Aug. 7, 2008. According to an article in the Nevada Appeal (May 22, 2006), a seismic assessment was conducted in 2003 to determine the feasibility of reopening the bar. As reported, the cost then estimated to stabilize the building was about $100,000.