The Minden Inn: A Look of Elegance
Frieda’s Files are a collection of historical short stories about Carson Valley by Frieda Cordes Godecke, published in The Record-Courier. Reproduced here with permission from the Cordes Cousins, and their book “Frieda’s Files”.
May 17, 1979 The Minden Inn: A look of elegance
June 11, 1917, was a special day in the new little town of Minden, Nevada. It was not only Carson Valley Days, but it was also the grand opening of the elegant new, three-storied Minden Inn which at that time, before large gambling casinos and skyscraper hotels became so much a part of the state, was considered by many the St. Francis of Nevada.
The Inn was the dream of its builder, the late H.F. Dangberg of Dangberg Land of Live Stock Co. of Carson Valley.
Pressed brick was used for the outer walls of the impressive structure of which The Record-Courier of the day has this to say- “Only the best money can buy was used in its construction.” Comfortable lounge chairs, a fireplace, rich drapery, and rugs gave the spacious lobby a look of elegance.
The large, formal dining room took up one-fourth of the space on the main floor. The Grill Room, used for informal gatherings, was located in the center of the building, and to the right of the lobby was the ladies’ parlor. The kitchen with its large oil-burning range and adjoining pantry took up the space to the rear of the building, and a barber shop and bar were located on the east side.
Guests had a choice of using the wide stairs or the elevator to reach the comfortable bedrooms on the upper floors. A bridal suite was frequently occupied by movie stars and dignitaries who visited this area. The elevator was the only one in Carson Valley.
When Fritz Dangberg opened his Heidelberg Saloon in Minden in 1908, it was understood that it would be the only establishment of that nature in the town, but when the Inn was being constructed, the Minden town fathers changed their decision and allowed a bar to be included in its building.
Mr. and Mrs. Hewletts, the first managers at the Inn, made arrangements to feed 700 people in their dining room on opening day, but many more enjoyed the excellent cuisine. A V&T Special brought visitors from Reno, Carson, and other points.
This writer has good reason to remember that June day in 1917. It seemed there was a shortage of waitresses at the Inn, and four girls from the home ec class of Douglas High, of which I was one, were asked to fill in. I was assigned four tables in the Grill Room, and all went well until after I had served a good-looking elderly gentleman. When he left the table, I found a silver dollar at his plate. I dashed after him and informed him he paid for his food at the register. He smiled and said the dollar was for me. I was from the sticks and had never heard of tipping. I was the only home ec girl who left the Inn with a tip that day. It just wasn’t done to a great extent.
An ad in The Record-Courier in December 1917 concerning the coming New Year’s Eve dance at the Inn reads, “People will be given the opportunity to enjoy revelry such as is featured in large cities on New Year’s Eve. Special chicken dinners from 6-7:30. Dancing 8-1a.m.–$1 per couple. Special Entertainment.”
The Inn was packed with ladies in lovely gowns and gentlemen in their best bib and tucker. Again, a V&T Special brought visitors to join the fun.
The Inn was operated by the Dangberg Company for seven years and then sold to Frank and Rachel Andrews. Many of us remember the gracious hospitality of the Andrews. The Inn was for many years the home of local service clubs and the meeting place of the Minden Fortnightly Club.
When the Andrews family bought the Inn, faithful old John Poulas came with it as part of the bargain. From a secret recipe, he manufactured all the delicious ice cream consumed at the Inn. John lived in the basement and seldom went to bed. He took catnaps in a comfortable old chair. Every nickel he earned was fed into the slot machine.
Ferman Pronunciado, the porter, kept the hardwood floors waxed and polished, and the monogrammed (M.I.) silver gleaming and ready for use.
Yee-Him Bow was the cook and boss of the kitchen for many years.
The ‘20s and ‘30s were the years when divorce laws were especially lenient in Nevada. Douglas County had its share of visitors seeking marital freedom. Mary Pickford, who spent her six weeks on a Genoa ranch when she was divorcing Douglas Fairbanks, visited the Inn on several occasions. Lady Hatfield of England, accompanied by her personal maid, resided at the Inn for six weeks, as did Mrs. F. B. Morse, Jr.
The marriage of Clark Gable and Carole Lambard caused a stir of excitement when they were wed at the Inn in 1939. Ray Kneisely, prominent in Nevada politics, and Florence Richards of Lake Tahoe were also married at the Inn.
H.V. Kaltenbourne, popular news commentator on the radio, was a guest at the Inn on several occasions.
Will Rogers, who was a personal friend of H.F. Dangberg, was a frequent visitor at the Inn when he was on location at Lake Tahoe where the filming of “Lightning,” in which he starred, took place in the ‘20s. The actor, who was much interested in ranching, was taken on tours of the large ranch holdings of the Dangberg Co. by the owner.
Much of the movie “Chicken Every Sunday” was filmed in and around the Inn in the late ‘40s. Celeste Holm and Dan Dailey, who starred in this picture, were familiar figures on the streets of Minden during the filming. Some of the locals having bit parts in the movie were Mac Brown, Anna Frey, Gustava Howard, and Catherine Dangberg.
Strong Heart, the beautiful dog who starred in pictures before Lassie’s time, and his trainer lived at the Inn while Strong Heart starred in “The Call of the Wild,” which was filmed in the Bridgeport area.
There were other notables as well as cattlemen, politicians, and drummers (traveling salesmen) who were treated royally when they made the Minden Inn their headquarters while in the Valley.
The Andrews family operated the Inn for 25 years, and in April 1948, it was sold to K.P. Warner. Since then it has changed hands several times and has undergone much remodeling. Although some of the grandeur has disappeared, the Minden Inn still stands proudly as a monument to the elegant days of Carson Valley’s past.
*Editor’s note: Currently the Minden Inn serves as offices for Douglas County staff. The lobby is open to visitors during regular business hours. In 1986 the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.