Las Vegas Sun

July 31, 2014

Could mystery donor save historic Boulder Dam Hotel?

Lawyer suggests anonymous donor may be willing to put up $260,000 to save historic hotel

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

The historic Boulder Dam Hotel in downtown Boulder City was built in 1933.

Boulder Dam Hotel closes

A closing banner hangs in front of the Boulder Dam Hotel. Launch slideshow »

Boulder Dam Hotel

The Treasured Times Tearoom is one of the rooms refurbished in the Boulder Dam Hotel under the supervision of manager Roger Shoaff. The tearoom, one of the amenities and sources of revenue at the hotel, offers tea by reservation only. Launch slideshow »

Boulder Dam Hotel

An angel may be waiting in the wings to save the Boulder Dam Hotel.

Board members of the Boulder City Museum and Historical Association are scheduled to meet Thursday with lawyer Ralph Denton about facilitating a contribution that could reopen the historic hotel and its museum.

The nonprofit association owns the hotel, its restaurant and Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum, which is located on the hotel’s mezzanine.

Denton told the board during a special meeting Wednesday night that he is willing to negotiate with the board and an anonymous donor to bring in $260,000 to keep the museum operating into the new year.

He suggested that he might also join with donors to create an endowment to ensure the hotel and museum’s long-term future.

The Boulder Dam Hotel, its restaurant and the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum closed July 11 after the association ran out of money. It was three mortgage payments behind, had insurance payments due and owed vendors.

It was, however, able to pay employees their final paychecks.

Board members said they expected the Boulder Dam Credit Union, which holds $940,000 in mortgages, to begin foreclosure proceedings on Monday.

The historical association last week failed in a last-ditch effort to get city redevelopment authority funds to remain open.

Denton, who leases an office in the hotel, made his offer at the end of a special board of directors meeting called to discuss the long-term future of the museum’s archives if the hotel were to remain closed.

“If an anonymous donor came forward this week and offered $260,000, would that keep it open?” he asked.

“We were told that amount of money should keep the hotel afloat, based on projected income,” board member Bret Runion replied.

Board member Rod Woodbury added, “Every day that goes by, it gets tougher to start all over again. What might save the hotel with $250,000 now or in a month might not be enough in five months.”

Denton said he would be willing to negotiate bringing a gift to the historical association, but he would want to see city officials sit on an auditing committee to assure him about the financial future.

Woodbury said the association’s books are open. “We are proud of the way this is being run,” he said.

Hotel board members said they have received calls from people who say they might be interested in buying the hotel, but they agreed not to consider a sale until they have had time to raise money to save it as a nonprofit.

If the association loses the hotel, however, the board discussed what would happen to the association’s extensive collection of Hoover Dam and early Boulder City artifacts.

Dennis McBride, former Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum curator who now is a curator at the Nevada State Museum, offered a partnership with the state museum, which he pointed out has just completed construction on a new 78,000-square-foot building at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve.

The historical association could give the collection to the state museum, which has the space and staffing to consolidate it and continue to add to it, McBride said.

The historical association’s collection is now split among the hotel basement, the basement of the Boulder City Library and storage units at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Boulder City.

The state museum could then allow the historical association unlimited free use of the materials in exhibits and programs at the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum, he said.

Current Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum Curator Shirl Naegle told the board that the archive is safe in the basement of the hotel for now and that the first choice should be to keep it in Boulder City and accessible to the public.

However, he said, the options to keep it in Boulder City — primary among them the basement of the Boulder City Library — would not allow them to be accessible.

Short of that, Naegle said, the archives should be kept in Clark County and remain accessible to the public.

“Ideally, if you could keep it in Boulder City, that would be great,” McBride said. “If you can’t keep it in Clark County, keep it together as a collection. Don’t break it up. If you lose one piece of it, the rest is diminished in value.”

Naegle added, “You don’t want to lose that mass. Then it is no longer identifiable as a collection.”

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