The newly renovated Belvada Hotel, originally built as a bank in 1906, in Tonopah on Jan. 21. (Photo: Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)
TONOPAH — One of Tonopah's biggest eyesores has been reborn as an unabashedly upmarket and up-to-date, sophisticated hotel that still reflects the initial heyday of the town's numerous boom-and-bust cycles.
The Belvada Hotel, which opened Dec. 28 on Main Street in Tonopah, is owned by Fred and Nancy Cline of Sonoma, California, who have spent more than $2 million restoring it to a contemporary vision of Edwardian grandeur.
The former Nevada State Bank and Trust, with offices on four floors, was the first building in the tent city of Tonopah when it opened in 1906.
When they bought the building from the town of Tonopah for $1 in 2017, the Clines already had restored and reopened the landmark Mizpah Hotel, across the street, in 2011.
Bringing new life to the Mizpah didn't require a lot of effort. "They thankfully had a caretaker who kept the heat on low and loved the place," Nancy Cline told RJmagazine.
The Belvada was a different story.
"When we finished the Mizpah, there (the Belvada) sat, derelict and crumbling," Cline said.
"It was in major disrepair," general manager John McCormick said. "You walked on the fifth floor if you dared," and in spots, the basement was visible below. "It was a pigeon heaven."
After its life as a bank and later as the Belvada Apartments, the building remained unoccupied for two decades.
The first order of business, McCormick said, was to seal the roof and window openings. The floors, walls — pretty much everything — had to be ripped out and replaced.
In contrast with the Mizpah's Victorian-esque adornments, it was decorated by Nancy Cline in warm, soothing earth tones and period reproductions, with lots of wood, stone and tile.
The early 20th century accents start at the front and side doors, which have penny-tile mosaics proclaiming the name of the hotel and the year 2020, along with "Nevada State Bank and Trust, 1906."
The lobby has gleaming tile floors, a pressed-tin ceiling and plush leather and velour seating, including a circular banquette. The original bank vault off the lobby has been converted into a cozy seating area with leather wingbacks and memories of Tonopah's past adorning the walls.
The 40 rooms are arranged on floors themed by color: green for the second, blue for the third, gold for the fourth and red for the fifth. Each is fitted with a refrigerator, microwave and a coffeemaker by legendary Italian firm Lavazza.
All of the rooms have lush carpeting, crisp, white linens and broad windows that allow natural light to stream in, and more space than expected in historic hotel rooms.
Bathrooms evoke Tonopah's golden years with classically designed fixtures and penny-tile floors in intricate patterns devised by Nancy Cline. Custom bath products and plush, white robes (in the king suites) add touches of luxury.
McCormick said the typical guest is passing through town for one night.
"Tonopah is a great midpoint," between Las Vegas and Reno, while eastern California — with Death Valley and Yosemite national parks and ski areas such as Mammoth Mountain — also drive traffic.
"People now know the Mizpah, and by extension the Belvada," McCormick said.
And the project isn't finished yet. A coffee shop off the lobby was due to open in March. The Clines are targeting year's end to open the Boiler Room speakeasy in the basement, which has remarkably pristine stone walls, original glass-block skylights embedded in the sidewalk above, a partially hidden entrance with steps to the street, and the original boiler, though it is no longer in use.
A side room that originally found life as the Nevada Club — a bar some called one of the best in the country when it was operating — will be a reception room.
The Clines are lifelong residents of Northern California who decided to invest in Tonopah after learning about Nancy's ties to the area through great-uncle Harry Ramsey, who came from Texas to make his fortune in Tonopah and succeeded handsomely, and her grandmother, the first female postmistress of Goldfield to the south.
"He was able to sell and get out and come to the Bay Area," Cline said. "He took his sister and moved to Berkeley and built a beautiful house, and went around the world."
And that brought the Clines to Tonopah and, eventually, to the Belvada.
"It appears that Fred and I have been nominated by the universe to take care of two magnificent buildings in Tonopah," Cline said. "If Tonopah and Goldfield hadn't been so good to my great-uncle and my grandmother, she would never have come to the Bay Area and met my grandfather, and I probably wouldn't be here. Tonopah, as far removed as it is from our daily lives, had a whole bunch to do with my existence."
Joni Eastley, a former Nye County commissioner who is on the boards of Preserve Nevada and Tonopah Main Street, said, "I am a dedicated preservationist and I was personally thrilled to see Fred and Nancy Cline save what I consider one of the anchor properties to our efforts to revitalize the downtown area."
Cline joked that she should start a recent interview by getting "my psychiatrist on the line," but she clearly understands what that first building meant to the town, and felt a responsibility to save it.
"It literally was representative of the hopes and dreams and inspiration of the pioneers who settled Tonopah."