AGA – The Cal-Neva Lodge Lecture

Event Series Event Series: Ameican Gaming Archives

February 24 @ 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

AGA – The Cal-Neva Lodge Lecture

February 24, 2024
1:00 to 2:30pm

Kitty and Russell Umbraco, Guest Speakers

Cal Neva Lodge

As part of our American Gaming Archives (AGA) lecture series, Kitty and Russell Umbraco will delve into the fascinating history of the Cal-Neva lodge.

The Cal-Neva Lodge was built in 1926 by real estate developer Robert P. Sherman. The resort and casino straddle the border between Nevada and California on the shores of Lake Tahoe. It became famous when national news picked up a story about actress Clara Bow cancelling checks she owed to the Cal-Neva worth $13,000 in 1930. In 1960, entertainer Frank Sinatra purchased the resort with several others, including singer Dean Martin and Chicago mobster Sam Giancana that today is called Ca Neva Resort & Casino.

Summary of Talk: Cal Neva Lodge is an amazing place. The views of Lake Tahoe are mesmerizing with most of the rooms of the Lodge and the cabins viewing the Lake. The grounds have a natural beauty with lots of old pine trees and huge granite boulders that can hide lovers who can’t wait to a kiss or hide mobsters or even the FBI! As the name indicates 1/2 of the Lodge is on the Nevada side and the other side is in California. Since they have gaming, it is on the Nevada side. But during prohibition on liquor, when they got word that the cops in California were coming to raid the Lodge; they moved to the bar to Nevada! It was easy as the “Indian Room” had a line down the middle! Just step over the line and you were in the other State.

The “Rich and Famous” discovered the Lodge and the minute the gates went up on Highway 40 in the spring till the gates closed in the late fall; they came to the Lodge to play and have fun. The show room had top notch performers like Spike Jones, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. Judy Garland, and many, many more. After the shows, the entertainers had fun playing at the Lodge. But not everything was legal so that is what makes the story interesting.

After all of the people that crowded into the Lodge for so many years, why is it closed now with a fence around it? Most of the time, a fence keeps people out. But most feel that the fence keeps the “spirits” inside who are still partying.

Speakers Bio: When Russell Umbraco studied at UNR, there was a discovery of gold coins in Virginia City.  After seeing it in the news, Russell — and everyone else in town — went to Virginia City to find gold coins.  The coins eluded him, finding only dirty old bottles. After graduating from UNR in chemistry, he and his wife Kitty moved to the Bay Area.  They bought an old Victorian and restored the old house, furnishing it with old bottles from Virginia City.  After retirement, the couple moved back to Reno, and shared their love of history. 

Make sure to arrive early as we have limited seating available in our Event Space. Don’t forget, we provide free, temporary parking permits to make it easier to visit NHS!


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1650 N. Virginia Street
Reno, NV 89503 United States
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Phone: 775-688-1190