Some of my photos are now for sale at ImageKind.

Nature Index
(My hiking and camping adventures in Northern California.)

Culture Index
(NorCal cities, highways, restaurants, museums, architecture, historic attractions, vintage neon signs, roadside attractions, etc.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

U.S. Route 40: Reno's 4th Street

The historic U.S. Route 40, and before it the even-more-historic Lincoln Highway ran through the heart of Reno and Sparks, along 4th Street in Reno, and apparently both along Victorian Avenue and Prater Way in Sparks, as both streets are marked with Lincoln Highway markers after they split off from one another.

Many businesses arose along the route to take advantage of the highway traffic. When the freeway, current Interstate 80, was built, I believe in the early 1970s, these businesses were bypassed. Many have disappeared all together, the remnants of some remain, others struggle to stay in business, and a few flourish.

This is my journey down the old highway route, from west to east. I haven't had the chance to do much research on the subjects yet, and my photographs are for the present heavily sign-oriented. I hope to get a wider variety of photos next spring when I next plan to visit Reno.

20091021 Lincoln Highway Bridge Rail
Lincoln Highway Bridge Rails

When I went to Reno in 2003, there must have been some sort of sign indicating there was a site of historic interest that led me to pull off of Interstate 80 just west of Reno and photograph these old bridge rails from the Lincoln Highway. I found them in 2009 only because I remembered to look for them--the turn off on east-bound I-80 is only marked as "TRUCK PARKING."

A sign there indicates that the rails were originally located .9 miles to the east, where they were installed in 1914 by contractor A.F. Neidt.

20091022 Mineral Inn Spa & Resort
Mineral Inn Spa & Resort

Shortly after the bridge rails headed east on I-80, there is a turn off for West 4th St.--that is the old U.S. 40 route. Immediately upon exiting you are faced with the sprawling remains of an old resort, now fenced off with no trespassing signs. I found a way to get in, but respected the signs. But if you are curious what the grounds look like, here are some photos from somebody else.

The route into downtown Reno from here is quite scenic, following the Truckee River, which was lined with trees in full fall foliage when I made the trip in October. On the outskirts of town you hit what remains of the old motel row.

20090927 Silver Spur Motel
Silver Spur Motel

It didn't appear that there is a motel operating there, and I could not find a listing for the Silver Spur.

20090927 Washoe Steakhouse
4201 W. 4th
Washoe Steakhouse

Looked like a very nice restaurant.

20090927 Tombstone Territory
2255 W. 4th St.
Tombstone Territory

The name of this motel derives from its proximity to a cemetery.

20090927 Sunset Motel
2091 W. 4th St.
Sunset Motel

20090927 El Tavern Motel
1801 W. 4th St.
El Tavern Motel

20090927 Silver State Lodge
1791 W. 4th St.
Silver State Lodge

There is no motel to go with the sign anymore, but here is a description of the place from an old postcard:

Reno' Finest Motor Court
* Steam Heated Rustic Cottages
*Complete Electric Kitchens
*Free Steam Heated Garages
*Six Acres Beautifully Landscaped
R.J Reynolds, Owner - W.D. Crawford, Mgr.

20090927 Gold 'N' Silver Inn Restaurant
790 W. 4th St.
Gold 'N' Silver Inn Restaurant

In business since 1956. I've eaten there twice now. The eggs Castroville--eggs Benedict with artichoke hearts in place of Canadian bacon, were particularly good, but I didn't get a photo of that. You'll have to settle for a photo of meatloaf.

20091022 Meat Loaf

20090927 Donner Inn
720 W. 4th
Donner Inn

20090927 Chapel of the Bells
700 W. 4th St.
Chapel of the Bells

20091022 Crest Inn
525 W. 4th St.
Crest Inn

Not much of a sign, but the design of the building is a nice example of Googie.

20090928 Rancho Sierra
411 W. 4th
Rancho Sierra Motel


280 W. 4th St.
Lido Inn

20090927 In-Town Motel
260 W. 4th St.
In Town Motel

20091021 In-Town Motel

215 W. 4th St.
Bonanza Inn


200 W. 4th
Mardis Gras Motor Lodge

After this we pass through the heart of downtown Reno, N. Sierra, N. Virginia, and N. Center. Virginia Street is the old U.S. Route 395 route, pre-freeway, and is still Business 395. Along it the largest downtown casinos are located, particularly Circus Circus, The Silver Legacy, and El Dorado, which all flow into one another at the 2nd floor level, bridging the streets below and making one enormous indoor casino, restaurant, and bar space.

20090927 Louis Basque Corner
301 E. 4th St.
Louis Basque Corner

20091022 N.C.O. Railroad Station
325 E. 4th St.
Nevada-California-Oregon Railroad Station

20090927 Morris Hotel
400 E. 4th St.
Morris Hotel

20090927 Abby's HWY 40
424 E. 4th St.
Abby's Highway 40

20091022 Flanigan Square
701 E. 4th St.
Flanigan Square

Built in 1902.

777 E. 4th St.
Rancho 777

20090927 Lucky Motel
1011 E. 4th St.
Lucky Motel

20090927 Alturas Bar & Nightclub
1044 E. 4th St.
Alturas Bar & Nightclub

20090927 Brought to you by the number . . .
1113 E. 4th St.
Reno 8 Motel


1200 E. 4th St.
Sutro Motel

20090927 Hi Ho Motor Lodge
1233 E. 4th St.
Hi Ho Motor Lodge

301 Montello St.
Ernie's/Reno Salvage Co.

On the south side of the 1300 block on E. 4th St., just approaching Montello, there are a couple of beautiful art deco structures behind chained link fencing. Both the names Ernie's and Reno Auto Salvage can be seen.

20090927 Ponderosa Lodge
1400 E. 4th St.
Ponderosa Lodge

20090927 Desert Sunset Motel
1425 E. 4th St.
Desert Sunset Motel

20090927 Tahoe Motel
1650 E. 4th St.
Tahoe Motel

20090927 Hi-Way 40 Motel
1750 E. 4th St.
Hi-Way 40 Motel


1752 E. 4th St.
Farris Motel

One of the buildings for this motel has a really interesting rounded, staggered corner, but I haven't gotten a photograph of it yet.

20090927 Sandman Motel
1755 E. 4th St.
Sandman Motel

If I had to choose a favorite sign in Reno, this would be it.

20090927 Sandman Motel

20090927 Everybody's Inn Motel
1756 E. 4th St.
Everybody's Inn Motel

20090927 Gold Coin Motel
2255 E. 4th St.
Gold Coin Motel

I'm a little confused by this place, as the coin they chose to make golden is a silver dollar.

20090927 Casale's Halfway Club
2501 E. 4th St.
Casale's Halfway Club

20090927 Restwell Court
2525 E. 4th St.
Restwell Court

On February 18, 1979, three units were destroyed by fire at the Restwell Court Motel. It probably didn't last much longer than that and there is no motel building there today.

Then we cross over into Sparks.

20091022 Coney Island Bar
2644 Prater Way
Coney Island Bar

Opened in 1935, and named after an amusement park that used to stand across the street.

Prater Way & Victorian Ave. split.


2406 Prater Way
Pony Express Lodge

20091021 Copenhagen Bar
2140 Prater Way
Copenhagen Bar

20090928 the Elbow ROOM
2002 Victorian Ave.
Elbow Room Bar

20090927 Elbow Room Bar


19th & Prater Way
Ideal Shopping Center

20091021 Ideal Shopping Center


1861 Victorian Ave
Craig Motel

20091021 Tarry Motel
1828 Victorian Ave.
Tarry Motel


1800 Victorian Ave.
Safari Motel

20091021 Playhouse
1746 Victorian Ave.
Playhouse Lounge

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Nugget's Awful Awful Burger

For my birthday in 2009 I decided to take a quick trip to Reno to photograph vintage neon signs--my favorite pastime. I also wanted a classic dining experience, so I used Google and found out about the Awful Awful Burger.

The chain of Nugget casinos started by Dick Graves and his general manager John Ascuaga have been serving up the Awful Awful Burger since 1955. On that trip I tried the Awful Awful at Rosie's Cafe deep inside the massive John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks. The restaurant is large and quite nice, other than the usual garish casino carpets. According to a comment on Chowhound, the burger is served there the way it was originally served, as a double with two 1/4 pound patties. It comes with a choice of sides.

20090927 The Awful Awful Burger

I returned to Reno less than a month later, and this time had the Awful Awful at the little diner in the back of the small Nugget on the main strip of downtown Reno, Virginia St. Unlike Rosie's Cafe, this place had the classic feel I was looking for, with a small counter and stools. The diner is open 24 hours a day. The Awful Awful there is served as one large 1/2 pound patty, and served on top of an enormous basket of French fries. I saw several baskets of fries on the counter that looked untouched when I went up to the cash register to order. I ate quite a few fries with my burger, but also left my basket looking as though I hadn't had any at all. They must throw away hundreds of pounds of French fries every week at the greasy spoon.

20091021 The Nugget Diner

20091021 The Awful Awful Burger

I definitely preferred the burger at the little Nugget. It was very satisfying, although I wouldn't go as far as some people have in saying it's the best burger I've ever had--no way would I rank a well-done burger that high. But it was very good. The atmosphere was great too, and would be even more so had I gone late at night after a few beers, rather than for lunch. If you're looking for a family atmosphere, then Rosie's Cafe is the better bet, but if you want the feel of old Reno, then the little Nugget diner is the way to go.

About Me

My Photo

I love to learn about, visit, photograph, research, and write about everything that is interesting, unique, and historical about Northern California, and wherever else I should be fortunate enough to find myself.  I've spent many years scouring the roadside in my little car for interesting subjects and walking down hiking trails in the Sierra Nevada and along the coast to get to know the wonder that is Northern California.  I share most of this via photos on Flickr, and as much as time permits me to on my blog, the NorCal Explorer.  Fine art prints of my photos are for sale on Imagekind.