State demolishes last vestige of Windjammer casino dream
The giant oil derrick proposed by former actor Max Baer to promote a Beverly Hillbillies-themed casino was not the first time that someone had a dream for a major attraction along that stretch of Highway 395.
In the late 1970s, Minden resident Dug Picking proposed a casino complex featuring a 345-foot long replica of a sailing ship with masts 200-feet high.
Picking sold stock in the project and built the four-story building at the intersection of highways 395 and 50 that the state tore down last week.
Dug’s Windjammer Casino was the dream of a world traveler who operated Dug’s West Indies restaurant in northern Carson City for nine years.
“Dug Picking was a fabulous guy from Estonia, who spent most of his early years on sailing vessels,” former Nevada Appeal staffer Sue Morrow recalled.
Retired AP Capital Bureau reporter Brendan Riley remembered Picking as a nice guy and the West Indies as a popular hangout during the Legislative sessions.
The building that was torn down was a replica of a lighthouse that would supposedly shine a light up Highway 50 to draw travelers.
Picking was a merchant marine for 20 years before he arrived in Western Nevada.
He told R-C writer Alice McMorris that he’d had the idea of building the casino since 1973 when he bought the land at 50 and 395.
When Picking decided to execute his plans, he gathered an eight-person board of directors for the corporation and offered stock to Nevada residents.
He managed to raise enough money to build the four-story lighthouse building before going bankrupt.
A mechanic’s lien filed by the architect in the amount of $637,000 on March 5, 1979, was the death knell for Dug’s Windjammer casino.
The building sat idle until the state leased it to house the Nevada Commission on Tourism before that agency moved to the Laxalt building.
Developer John Serpa purchased the property and building in 1982, before plans for the Carson City bypass were announced in 1986.
In the late 1990s the building was back in the news when a jury awarded Serpa $5.65 million for six-plus acres, triple the amount the Nevada Department of Transportation’s appraisal suggested the property was worth.
The Sept. 24, 1999, decision had the state scrambling to examine where it had to purchase property for the bypass.
Morrow said Picking and his wife, Connie Jo, divorced after the casino deal fell through, and Picking moved to Mexico before returning to Nevada, where he lived in Las Vegas.