Remembering the Ritchford
When the town of Gardnerville was only a bit over 20 years old, the Grand Ritchford Hotel (and stage stop) advertised its September 1898 “Grand House Warming” celebration and dance in honor of the area’s newest premier hotel. In deference to the size of the expected crowd, it was held just up the street at the Valhalla Hall. Tickets for the event cost attendees $2, but thoughtfully included was not only supper but “horse feed.” Portions of the building can still be seen today at 1004 Main St. in downtown Gardnerville. Below is some history of the building by local author Karen Dustman.
The Grand Ritchford Hotel
William Ritchford was bound and determined to be a hotel owner. In March 1893, he opened a “fine hotel and saloon” with partner Hans Nelson on Main Street in Gardnerville. Patrons were promised “good wines, liquors, and cigars,” plus a chance to try their luck at the card tables.
That venture didn’t last long, however. By March of 1894, Ritchford was selling out to his partner and departing with his family for Antelope Valley. But by late 1896, Ritchford was back in town. By 1898 he’d purchased a parcel on the west side of today’s “S”-curve, and soon carpenters and stone masons were hard at work building a new hotel. It was described as “imposing,” and featured cornice painted a patriotic red, white and blue. A tall water tank was added to the property in November 1898, hoisted into place with “horsepower” of the old-fashioned variety.
When completed, the spacious hotel featured 20 “first-class” rooms. Ritchford advertised his new venture under the boasting name “The Latest.” In keeping with that name, Ritchford had his hotel electrified in 1903, a big improvement over its original gas lighting. And among other amenities, it seems medical help was close at hand for any guests who might need it. As early as 1899, a patient was noted to be “undergoing treatment at Ritchford’s Hotel.” Advertisements from 1908 indicate that Dr. E. H. Hawkins had both his medical offices and his residence in the hotel. Meanwhile, another physician named Dr. Marotz kept a convenient office nearby, but “at night can be found at [a] cottage adjoining the Ritchford hotel.”
Word of the Ritchford’s cushy accommodations (and Mrs. Ritchford’s cooking) spread around the state and as far away as San Francisco. It was the epitome of elegance and luxury. Ritchford himself worked hard to ensure a steady stream of patrons. After the V&T opened its Minden depot in 1906, he would drive there every day with his team to offer a lift to traveling salesmen needing a place to spend the night.
But after more than two decades in the hotel business, Bill Ritchford passed away at the age of 75. It was February of 1922. Despite his years, Ritchford was hauling hay by sled from Minden to Gardnerville. The load of hay slid forward, and his four-horse team spooked. Ritchford fell off and was dragged for several hundred feet, the sled running over his body. He died the following day. He was buried in Carson City’s Lone Mountain Cemetery.
A portion of the original three-story Ritchford Hotel still stands. It’s now just two stories tall, thanks to a fire that consumed the top floor in January 1937. Next time you pass by, think of the many smiling guests who crossed its threshold over the years to enjoy Bill’s hospitality and Anna’s home-cooked meals. And imagine the days when this bit of Gardnerville history was known as far away as San Francisco.