Then and now: More than the buildings change at Stateline casinos

Both photos, 1965 and 2012, I snapped from the same vantage point in Harrah’s parking lot, evidenced by the distinctive profile of the Harrah’s South Shore Room theater rectangular fly-loft at left.

Among other things, notice the 1965 predominance of American cars, and that today’s parking lot has rotated 90 degrees, apparently affording more spaces. 1965 was decades before today’s multilevel garages now on-site.

In the 1965 photo, those three round bulbous objects on the roof of Harrah’s showroom loft were carbon-arc searchlights which crisscrossed and scanned our Tahoe skies at night, much like the opening of a 20th Century Fox movie, or as seen at car lot or grand opening promotions. Thus, as visitors arrived over Echo Summit at night, Stateline was very obvious.

Those searchlights were discontinued about 1969, perhaps bowing out as “visual pollution” per the new TRPA, I’m told.

Harvey’s Wagon Wheel Hotel and Casino in the 1965 photo was Tahoe’s first high-rise at 11 stories. Harvey Gross’ historic cow-skull with wagon wheel logo, dating from the 1940s is seen on the roof and again fronting Highway 50. Directly under the roof sign, the glass elevator with twinkling white lights traversed the outdoor southeast corner of the hotel up-and-down from the casino floor up to the elegant “Top of the Wheel” restaurant, cocktail lounge and live music dance floor, the locals’ favorite. Gas-fired tiki torches adorned the motif. The outdoor elevator still operates on scheduled evenings today.

After an extortionist’s bomb in August 1980 gutted the lower six floors, Harvey’s rebuilt that original hotel and soon attached a modern 19-story expansion, becoming what is still the largest hotel at Lake Tahoe.

Today, Harveys and Harrah’s are commonly-owned by Caesars Entertainment.

— Bill Kingman

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Comments (4)
  1. Mark says - Posted: December 30, 2012

    I would sure love to have a few of those old cars in my garage. Please keep these pictures and stories coming!

  2. dunbfounded says - Posted: December 30, 2012

    Man, I sure remember some fun nights with the Ron Rose Trio and Mai Tais! Thanks, Kae and Bill, for the memories.

  3. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: December 31, 2012

    I think it was 1969 or 70 when Harveys started a remodel project. My Dad went up there and bought some carpet they tore out with the old cow skull and wagon wheel motif all over it. Dad had it installed in a game room when we lived on the corner of Glenwood and Pioneer.Wonder if it’s still there?
    Lot’s of good times at Harveys to be sure. The glass elevator was a big deal as a youngin’. Beautiful sunsets from the “Top of the Wheel”. Excellent food and Harvey Gross and his staff made sure everyone had a good time while they were there.
    The Cabaret lounge in the 70’s? Well this is a family publication so I won’t say what went on in there!
    Happy New Years. Old Long Skiis