Dayton’s Odeon Hall and Saloon

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.”

The Odeon Hall is a local treasure in historical downtown Dayton, Nevada.

The Odeon Hall is a local treasure in historical downtown Dayton, Nevada.

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.

Historical marker placed outside of the Odeon Hall.

Historical marker placed outside of the Odeon Hall.

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.

Historic accordion donated to Dayton, Nev. museum

Between 1889 and 1910, the Cassinelli family settled on a ranch across the Carson River from downtown Dayton. The ranch they acquired is now the location of the Ricci Ranch. Pietro and Theresa Cassinelli raised a family of 12 children while they lived in Dayton. Pietro and his brother, Bert and cousin Vitoria built a dam across the river and constructed ditches to irrigate their fields.

The crops they raised were taken to Virginia City, Gold Hill and Silver City to provide hay, potatoes, garlic, corn and other vegetables for people on the Comstock. Pietro Cassinelli was my Great Grandfather. His son, Pete owned the ranch where I grew up near Sparks. My father, Raymond, operated the Cassinelli Hog Ranch during World War II. In addition to ranching, Raymond and a group of his friends formed the Raymond Cassinelli Dance Band.

Raymond Cassinelli played accordion at the Odeon Hall in Dayton, Nev.

Raymond Cassinelli played accordion at the Odeon Hall in Dayton, Nev.

Before the War, Raymond went to San Francisco for a few years to study music and became an excellent accordion player. Raymond’s dance band with accordion, xylophone, piano and saxophone traveled around western Nevada and eastern California playing for dances and New Years celebrations during the late 1930s and early 1940s. I can remember them playing in Vinton, Stockton, various Grange halls, Virginia City and the Odeon Hall in Dayton. Raymond once told me that at one dance he played for in Stockton, the only people in the place who wore clothes were the members of his band.

After Raymond passed away a few years ago, my brother, sister and I decided to donate his accordion to one of his favorite dance halls. We had heard that the upstairs ball room at the Odeon Hall in Dayton may be converted to a museum someday. When this was the location of Mia’s Swiss restaurant, I took Raymond there to visit the old upstairs ball room. This brought back many memories for him of the days when he and his band had played there. He remembered that security was provided by deputy sheriff, Lester Barton. He kept order with a rifle equipped with a banana clip.

The idea of putting a museum in the Odeon Hall never did materialize. A few days ago, Grace Ricci called to ask me if I could bring some of the books I had written to the Dayton Historical Museum so they could sell them in their gift shop. I went to the ranch where she lived that was once owned by my ancestors to talk to her about the books. While I was there, I asked if the Dayton Museum would be interested in a donation of Dad’s old accordion.

I took the symphonic console accordion made by Guerrini Co. in San Francisco and some photographs to the museum to put them on display. The Dayton Historical Museum is located at Shady Lane and Logan Alley in Dayton. The building is the second oldest school house in Nevada, built in 1865. One of the photographs I gave to the museum was the Dayton class of 1906 taken alongside the building that is now the Museum. In the photo there are eight members of the Cassinelli clan who were students there in 1906. One of them was my Grandfather, Pete Cassinelli, Raymond’s father.

The Dayton Historical Museum is located at 485 Shady Lane in Dayton, Nev.

The Dayton Historical Museum is located at 485 Shady Lane in Dayton, Nev.

The Dayton Museum contains hundreds of artifacts from the Dayton area including local ancient Indian artifacts, mining equipment, old farm and ranch equipment from the Dayton Valley ranches, and now the accordion my father used when touring with his dance band over 70 years ago. The museum is open from 10am to 4pm on Saturdays and 1pm to 4pm on Sundays. The museum is closed December, January and February, except by appointment.

The Historical Society of Dayton Valley is responsible for not only the schoolhouse museum but also for the historic Dayton firehouse and 1860s jail. In partnership with the Chamber of Commerce and Lyon County, they have acquired and plan to restore Dayton’s 1881 C&C Railroad Depot at Main Street and Highway 50. This is the only Carson and Colorado Railroad depot still in existence in Nevada.