Hunters Lodge Then and Now

This photo represents a pretty bad day in the life of the Hunters’ Lodge Hotel and Cafe in Carson City. An article in the January 2, 1950 issue of the San Francisco Examiner describes what happened.

Flames, driven by a 50-mile-an-hour wind, burned a restaurant lodge and two other structures here late today with an estimated loss of $100,000. Five persons escaped safely from windows when Hunters’ Lodge, a well-known restaurant-bar in downtown Carson City, was enveloped by the fire. The lodge, which had six guest rooms on the second floor and a bar-restaurant-gambling facilities on the ground floor, was destroyed. Also destroyed were a building housing the body and paint shop of the State Motors’ next door to the lodge, and a small house in Carson City’s Chinese section. Hugo Enders, operator of the lodge, estimated his loss at between $75,000 and $100,000. Damage to the body and paint shop was estimated at $3,000, plus the loss of three automobiles. The small house was set afire by wind-driven sparks. Enders and his cook, Tim Ryan, 45, fled through a ground-floor window of the lodge. George Delicti, 34, the bar manager, and Glen Stoddard, a guest, leaped twelve feet from second story windows.

Believe it or not, it wasn’t the last run-in with fire this building would have. But we’re not there yet.

The Hunters’ Lodge was on the southwest corner of Fourth and Carson Streets, right across from the Nevada State Legislature Building. One block south of the St. Charles Hotel and one block north of the Ormsby House. I believe it was opened in the 1930s, though I’m not sure if it was built then or if something had been in the building earlier. A few postcards show the interior as having a lot of dark wood, animal hide barstools, and deer heads on the walls.

Next door was State Motors, also known as the Roventini Garage after one of its owners.

After the fire, the lodge was rebuilt a little more modestly. No longer two stories, it still retained the rough wood on the front facade. One of the owners during this time was George Gessler, who also built Carson City’s first drive-in movie theater up where the Northgate Movies is now.

It didn’t stay the Hunters’ Lodge forever. It went through a few more tenants during its history, being known as the Cuckoo’s Nest in the 1980s, and later Mia’s Swiss Restaurant.

The last tenant was Cafe Del Rio. This restaurant had kind of a rough road for a while, jumping around between several different spots in Carson in the late 90s and early 2000s. But they finally settled into Virginia City about 20 years ago, and they’ve been going strong there ever since.

The luck ran out for the Hunters’ Lodge on April 19, 1998. That was the day that some kids accidentally started a fire inside the Roventini Garage next door, which had been closed for a while. The fire was mostly contained to the garage, but it did damage the buildings that it touched both to the north and south. The building to the north just happened to be the Hunters’ Lodge.

An assessment of the Hunters’ Lodge building showed that it was damaged enough from the fire to be not worth repairing. But the city wouldn’t approve a demolition permit until the owner had a plan in place for the land. Finally the owner agreed to place landscaping and a seating area on the site, turning the spot into a makeshift park. He was then allowed to tear the building down. Demolition happened on March 17, 2000. The little park was supposed to be temporary as they developed plans to build office or retail on the site, but a newspaper article two years after the demolition said that little progress had been made in that direction.

It’s now been 26 years since the fire and 24 years since the demolition. That little “temporary” park is still there on the corner. It consists of a park bench, a tree, and a planter box. The site of the Roventini Garage next door is also still empty, and that’s still a concrete slab.

All the talk 20+ years ago about an office building coming to this land never came to pass. The building to the south of the garage did get renovated after the fire, and has been occupied by a law office. But the Hunters’ Lodge remains an empty lot, and might stay that way for quite a while longer.

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