Dayton, Nevada is the oldest town in the Comstock Historic District. The largest and most prominent building still standing in Old Town Dayton is the two-story brick structure known as the Odeon Hall. In my search to find who this old building was named for, I found it was simply named Odeon as a shortened version of “Melodeon.”
This was probably due to the building being used for entertainment purposes including theatrical performances, musical presentations and community dances.
The original building to occupy this site at 65 Pike Street was a community building built by the Odd Fellows Lodge in 1863. It had a full basement and there was a saloon on the left side of the ground floor with a hardware store on the right side. Upstairs there was a meeting hall and offices for the lodge. The building has been destroyed by fire at least twice and rebuilt on the same site. The 6,500-square-foot brick structure seen today dates back to about 1870.
There is a historic marker placed by the Julia Bullette Chapter of E Clampus Vitus on the front of the Odeon. It proclaims that President Ulysses S. Grant spoke from the upstairs balcony during his visit to the Comstock in 1870. This is just one of the mythical stories about Nevada that is simply not true. In fact, President Grant and his entourage hurried through Dayton on his way to meet with Adolph Sutro at the Sutro Mansion and to take a tour of the famous tunnel Sutro had built. Though President Grant did not visit the Odeon, it is generally accepted that Mark Twain and Adolph Sutro regularly patronized the Odeon Saloon.
In the 1940s, my father, Raymond Cassinelli, had a dance band and his group regularly played for dances at the Odeon Hall in the upstairs ballroom. This room was also used for wedding receptions and school dances. It is still used occasionally for plays and melodramas. Dad told me that Deputy Sheriff Chester Barton came to all the dances to keep the crowd in line and to bounce out any trouble makers. Barton always carried a carbine with a banana clip just to command respect. Dad also liked to tell the story about a dance job he played one time in Stockton, California. The only people in the dance hall with any clothes on were the members of his band.
In 1961, Dayton and the Odeon Hall became a hot spot of activity when the cast and crew of the movie The Misfits came to town. Scenes of The Misfits featuring Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift and Clark Gable were actually filmed inside the Odeon Hall. The Misfits was the last movie for each of these three actors. In 1982, Clint Eastwood made an appearance at the Odeon during the filming of Honkytonk Man.
In 1984, Max and Mia Kuerzi bought the Odeon Hall and opened up Mia’s Swiss Restaurant and Saloon on the ground floor. For over twenty years, they served fine Swiss and German cuisine and entertained customers with Mia’s yodeling and Max’s opinions on world affairs. In 2007, it was leased out to become Chuck’s Old West Grill. This lasted but two years and the place is now being offered for sale.
Years ago, before my mom and dad passed away, I took them to dinner at Mia’s Restaurant. This was the first time they had been in the Odeon Hall for over 50 years. As was her custom, Mia yodeled for us during dinner. She then took us on a tour of the old dance hall upstairs where Dad had played for dances so many years ago. This was a special treat for them.
Perhaps someone will come along with an appreciation for Comstock History and sufficient energy and resources to revive the Odeon Hall to its former glory.
Someday — when the depression is over.