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[graphic] Three Historic Nevada Cities Carson City, Reno, Virginia City A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary
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[photo] The El Cortez Hotel is an examle of the Art Deco style
Photo by Charles Miller, Courtesy of Nevada State Historic Preservation Office
Built in 1931, El Cortez Hotel is one of only three remaining major Art Deco buildings in Reno, and is an excellent example of this style. The foliated motif found on the terra cotta design on the building's base and parapet are remarkable Art Deco details. At the time it was built, it was Reno's tallest building. The hotel experienced such extensive use early on that an addition was built just a few years after its construction. The hotel included the Orchid Room, a swanky bar and a popular restaurant called the Tracedero Room. These rooms were elegantly appointed with stylish Art Deco ornamentation. The El Cortez was a high-class hotel, garnering an astounding $6 per night, compared to the prevailing room rate of $2.50 per night. The El Cortez was built in anticipation of increased divorce traffic after Reno's divorce law was liberalized in 1931. The residency period for those seeking a divorce in Reno was reduced from three months to six weeks, to boost the already lucrative divorce trade. El Cortez was one of several temporary residential complexes constructed during this time.

[photo] The El Cortez Hotel
Photo by Mella Rothwell Harmon, courtesy of Nevada State Historic Preservation Office

Reno-based architect, George Ferris and his son, Lehman A. "Monk" Ferris, designed this hotel for real estate investor Abe Zetooney. George Ferris's career in Nevada lasted over 30 years. He was educated at Swarthmore College and settled in Reno in 1906, where he opened his own architectural office. He was responsible for the Spanish Quartet of schools, including Mount Rose and McKinley Park, as well as the Governor's Mansion in Carson City, and later in his career he served as the State Architect for the Federal Housing Authority. Ferris formed a partnership with his son Lehman in 1928, which lasted until 1932. Lehman had studied at the University of Nevada and worked with Frederick DeLongchamps before going to work for his father. He was one of the first architects in Nevada to specialize in steel frame construction, served as the City of Reno building inspector, was instrumental in the adoption of a Uniform Building Code, and chairman of the first State Architectural Registration Board in 1947.

The El Cortez Hotel is located at 239 West Second St. in Reno. The lobby and casino are open to the public; for reservations call 775-322-9161.

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