photo by: rocor/flickr/CC BY NC 2.0

February 4, 2016

Genoa Bar and Saloon in Genoa, Nevada

Back in 1997, the airwaves were dominated by Paula Cole singing: “Where have all the cowboys gone?” The answer to Paula's question is: to the Genoa Bar and Saloon.

What could be more fun than a genuine Wild West bar that has hosted American presidents and was a set for a scene in Misery, the Stephen King novel adapted for the big screen in which Kathy Bates shatters a guy’s feet? Next time you’re going west on vacation and the city slicker in you wants to play cowboy for a couple hours, be sure to check out the Genoa Bar and Saloon, just a half hour’s drive from Lake Tahoe.

This watering hole was built in 1853 as Livingston’s Exchange, making it the oldest “thirst parlor” in the state of Nevada. Much of the bar’s interior has remained surprisingly intact. For example, although most of the lamps were converted from oil to electricity in the late 19th century, the same fixtures remain. Even today, one oil lamp still burns on its original fuel source (albeit only on New Year’s Eve). In the winter, the bar is heated with wood that locals bring to feed the stove.

Another historic element that has been with the Genoa Bar and Saloon since its opening is the Diamond Dust Mirror that came from Scotland in the 1830s. The bar also features a trap door that previously led to the “cold cellar,” where, before the days of refrigeration, ice was brought and food was stored to keep it from perishing.

The interior of the Genoa Bar and Saloon

photo by: Reno Tahoe/Flickr/CC BY NC ND 2.0

The interior of the Genoa Bar and Saloon.

It’s hard to imagine a bar that has had as many famous patrons as they Genoa. Not one, but two American presidents—Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt—have stopped by for a pint, as has every Nevada governor—as far back as people can remember anyway. Clark Gable (who played poker here with local cowpokes), Lauren Bacall, Red Skelton, Cliff Robertson, Carol Lombard, Richard Boone, Raquel Welch (who, upon popular request, left her brassiere in the bar, which still hangs on the wall) and Ron Howard have also enjoyed a cold one here.

In addition to hosting Hollywood celebrities and chief executives, many household name musicians, mostly of the country variety, have played gigs at the Genoa Bar and Saloon: Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and John Denver, to name a few.

The Genoa Bar and Saloon is not a museum or a tacky tourist trap. On the contrary, it remains a vibrant hub of Genoa’s social life. The bar features a pool table and jukebox, where locals congregate to have fun. In the summer months, “porch parties” take place, and bar patrons often participate in spontaneous street dances.

In other words, the Genoa Bar and Saloon is a living, natural part of Genoa. If you want an authentic Wild West tavern experience, this is the closest you can get without having to wait until someone invents time travel.

Location: 2282 Main St., Genoa, NV 89411
Weekdays, 10 a.m.-11 p.m.; weekends, 10 a.m.-midnight.
As Seen In:
This bar has been the star of quite a few Hollywood flicks, including the classic John Wayne Western The Shootist, Misery, Honky Tonk Man and Till the River Runs Dry. In the 1980s, a Coors beer commercial was shot in the bar.
You're Having:
A bloody Mary.
Yelp Review: "It is always nice to visit this history-rich bar. The owners and staff are awesome. The live music is fun. The drinks....all delicious! There are wonderful other types of "spirits" in this establishment as well. I love it here and visit frequently. Those who feel it is a dive isn't to us who love history....and to be visiting a down-home comfortable bar. And, to be in a fun place. – Sandie L.

Filip Mazurczak was an editorial intern at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He previously worked as a freelance journalist, translator, and editor. He is from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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