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When it comes to the Pioneer Saloon Las Vegas, you just don't find too many real life, still operating historical gems like this very often. It represents a piece of the most unique kind of Vegas history unlike any other.
Although it's actually in Goodsprings, Nv., Las Vegas is the place that it's associated with. That helps since there are numerous other bars throughout the country with the same name.
It's on the State Registry of Historical Places and besides its rich distinct past, there are a number of things here that will surprise you.
First off, having been built in 1913, is how good it looks for a bar that's over a 100 years old. Much of that can be attributed to old world craftsmanship that made things that last ... and last they have. The arid desert climate helps in that regard too.
The centerpiece to any saloon, the bar itself, is a perfect example of that.
It's a cherrywood creation that was made in Brunswick, Maine in the 1860's, so the bar you'll be drinking at is about 150 years old.
It was shipped around the tip of South America, then to San Francisco, eventually reaching its final destination of Rhyolite, Nevada. As you might imagine, in those days, that was no small feat whatsoever.
Later, about the time the mines in Rhyolite had played out and the place was turning into a ghost town, the mines in Goodsprings were prospering and the bar was purchased for the Pioneer Saloon.
Another unique part of the Pioneer Saloon is the tin stamped walls, inside and out, as well as its ceiling. Originally made by Sears and Roebuck as a ready-struct kit, it's one of the last, if not the last, of this kind of structure in the United States.
And the potbelly stove, which you'll see while drinking at the bar, is the original when the saloon first opened up for business just over 100 years ago.
There's also a reminder of its western days in the three bullet holes in the wall from when a dealer caught a miner cheating at poker, and drilled him as the miner lunged at him. That was in 1915, and they framed and posted the coroners report about it by the bullet holes.
There's another version of how the bullet holes got there but it seems to me the original story is easy enough to believe considering the wild and wooly past of this saloon.
These are some of the prominent features you'll read about the Pioneer Saloon when you search around the internet about the place, but there's more for you to discover about this saloon.
One example is the adjacent room to the bar where you'll see all kinds of autographed pic's of those who have come and spent some time here along with articles about the saloon, as well as the many films that featured the bar.
These include 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' (Johnny Depp), 'The Mexican' (Brad Pitt-Julia Roberts), 'Melvin and Howard' (Jason Robards-Mary Steenburgen-Paul Le Mat), 'Things are Tough All Over' (Cheech and Chong) and numerous other films, TV shows and features.
Travis Tritt did a photo shoot for an album here and Ghost Adventures has featured it as well as a few foodie shows and various online foodie sites.
One of the most popular items of the saloon's lore is the story of the plane crash nearby at Mt. Potosi that claimed the life of Carole Lombard, Clark Gable's wife at that time.
It's the biggest, most popular piece of its history so I made it into its own section at the end of this page.
What you can expect for your visit to the Pioneer Saloon today besides its unique history is a cool, laid back, time honored bar with a large wrap-around outdoor/drinking/dining seating area. It's also a very pet friendly bar.
You'll find really good fresh grilled fare along with a nice variety of food on their menu, a large variety of classic adult beverages as well as some pretty good choices of craft beers alongside the regular domestics.
They feature Angus beef burgers, with the Ghost burger being one of their most popular, as well as BBQ plates. On the menu they also have Mexican food, sandwiches (subs and regular), soups and salads, seafood and steaks. Another thing I love here is the all day breakfast.
When it gets warmer they'll have their misters going and when its cooler, they have heating towers and one corner spot with a tabletop firepit to make things more comfy in the outdoor areas.
And if you want to bring your own stuff to cook up, they have grills you can use to do your own thing. That comes in handy for hunters, whether game or fish, or DIY'ers that want to do their own cook-offs.
You'll read that this place is popular with bikers, but think more along the lines of modern day bikers, which encompasses riders of many different persuasions and professions. They'll host charity events that start here or end their runs here but they enjoy an easy going good time much the same as most of us.
There are other events that will either begin at the Pioneer Saloon or end their day there and that's part of the cool things about the place. You never know what you'll stumble into when you visit, but you can find out about the official ones when you scope out their online calendar.
On their online calendar you'll also see they have live music on weekends and often on a weekday as well as Karaoke. They host BBQ and Chili cook offs, special music events, racing events whether ATV or on foot, and various others.
They can accomodate large groups for all kinds of events whether its weddings, birthdays, reunions or corporate events with their big outdoor areas and outside bars.
My last visit had a band that seemed C & W, and they did solid in that genre, but then they did 'Badfish' by Sublime and a few other quirky re-interpreted versions of artist I hadn't expected them to do, and it made for a really cool and interesting surprise that evening.
Two comical off-beat things they have here is Chickenshit Bingo ... really .. (gotta ask about that one) and an official rite-of-passage into their very own Asshole club.
Some of you might remember that T-shirt that became popular when it first came out ..'Instant asshole, just add alcohol' .. well here, they make it official for you.
You can feel good about that though because your money goes towards a local non-profit org. with this club.
It makes for a sweet gag or surprise for that special someone you're with ... or anyone else you're with ... (umm .. careful with that one!).
On my last visit they had cornhole boards out back to the right on the grassy area with an expansive desert view of the surrounding area. Next to that is another area of benches and tables in front of the space with the time capsule.
According to current owner Noel Sheckells, the centennial celebration for the Pioneer Saloon had people from around the globe fly in to enjoy that special event. Also a great surprise to him was the response to the time capsule idea he came up with for the next hundred years of the saloon.
He had originally expected to sell a few hundred bricks as receipt of ownership to those wanting a stake in the time capsule. He was hoping to raise $5,000. Instead he sold over 1,600 bricks for $50,000 and had to raise the price to $100 per brick as he ran out of room to put brick-holders names on the capsule.
You can check out the capsule on the east side of the property.
They also host Star Journey. That's a night of guided star gazing which is a great location for it far from the Vegas bright lights. They have a few packages you can reserve for this.
This page reminded me of something a number of years back before I even considered creating a website of my own.
I was having a drink at a local bar when a younger girl from Chicago started quizzing me about the Pioneer Saloon. It turned out she was considering on planning a wedding there and her idea really sounded good once she filled in all the details.
Her and her fiancé decided on a down to earth, "stylish but hippie-ish, western-ish type of wedding" and wanted to have it in an unusual historic place. Pioneer Saloon fit that bill perfectly.
Her family and friends would first be staying in Jean, which is on I-15 and only 7 miles from the Pioneer Saloon. The hotels there were much cheaper, close by and a great staging area for the wedding.
The cost of things were a consideration for everyone involved so this was a great fit budget wise.
After the first much cheaper wedding celebration in Jean, the cut loose after-party would be done in Vegas the next night. That's the funnest part of the wedding tradition so what better place for that than Vegas?
I thought afterwards what a clever, creative and economical way to do all that. Everyone would enjoy the best of three worlds. A little hippie, a little western with a one-of-a-kind history, then a blow-out modern good time in Vegas.
That's one of the cool things about Vegas. Weddings here can, and do, take many different forms and shapes. When I started to pay attention, I saw more than a few couples who approached their wedding ideas in similar fashion as my bar quizzer.
It takes some desire and creativity in not wanting the 'same ole'same ole' when it comes to doing a wedding like that, but the choices in and around Las Vegas gives anyone all kinds of options you just can't find anywhere else. Her idea was a real good example.
There's a lot of places and things you can enjoy here that don't have to center on the Strip. And you can do things more your way by thinking creatively, while still having it in a place where everyone in your group can find their own level of fun, whatever that may be.
And that's one key reason for my website. To let people get to know the 'other' Las Vegas that can easily meld into whatever other plans you've made, or would like to make, for your time in Vegas.
That's what keeps this place fascinating. The array of choices are just unmatched anywhere else. Once you discover the 'other' Las Vegas, it adds even deeper layers and options to your experiences here.
Goodsprings was founded by rancher Joseph Good, for the natural springs that provided water and grazing for his cattle in the 1860's. It was in the early 1900's when it really got its start the way many towns in Nevada did back then - mining.
It was more the variety of ore beyond the gold and silver in the area that made it grow. The demand and need of these metals increased during WW I and again in WW II. So much so that the railroads made their way into Goodsprings in 1910 to help haul it all out.
Naturally, miners were the main people living and being serviced in Goodsprings in those days, which had numerous bars, cafes, eateries, supply stores and of course, brothels for them.
George Fayle was the one who built the Pioneer Saloon in 1913, as well as a general store and icehouse. In 1916, he built the Fayle Hotel which had the most modern amenities at that time. This was way before Las Vegas became anything of note, so it was quite an enterprise he created in that little town.
Back in those days, the Pioneer Saloon was a main place in evening entertainment for drinking, socializing, poker and ladies of the night.
In its heyday, Goodsprings peaked at around 800 in population. Today, it hangs tough with a population of about 200 with a good portion of it now virtually a ghost town.
The elementary school, also built in 1913, is on the National Register of Historical Places. It's the oldest schoolhouse in Clark County still operating as originally intended, even though its recently had to fight to stay open due to cost issues.
And get this ... it still uses an outdoor bell rung by a student pulling a cord to announce the beginning of its school day, like its done since it opened in 1913. How many places do you know that still have that?
Many of the buildings in Goodsprings have been destroyed by fires over the years with the main survivors from the beginnings of the town being the Elementary school and the Pioneer Saloon.
This is just a brief overview of the Goodsprings story. Much of it is similar to what occurred with many towns in Nevada. Its a western day story of boom and bust mining towns, many of which are now ghost towns. If you're a fan of western history and/or ghost towns, you're definitely in the right state.
The most famous lore regarding the Pioneer Saloon is the Hollywood tragedy detailed in the Lombard-Gable Memorial Room right next to the bar.
While returning from a US bond tour to support the war effort during WW II, Carol Lombard's plane crashed into Mt. Potosi on the final leg of their cross-country tour heading home to Los Angeles.
Since then its been determined it was caused by pilot error, yet many aviation experts are perplexed by what seemed of been ignored by a supposedly experienced pilot.
Clark Gable, her husband, came to Goodsprings and kept vigil at the Pioneer Saloon as he waited for word on survivors. Part of the lore is the cigarette holes burned into the bar top as he waited for word on his wife.
While researching some of the history of this, man o' man did I find some accounts that go all over the place on this one. There's differing stories of where Gable actually stayed, the what and when, and if he even spent time at the Pioneer Saloon.
There's also stories as to why Carole was in a rush to get back to LA, etc., etc. It gets into the classical Hollywood gossip-rumor mill stuff, so I'll stick to the basics.
She was 33 and the highest paid "screwball comedian" actress of her time ... he was 38 and the "King" of hollywood at the time. They lived together while he was trying to settle a divorce with his estranged wife.
Shortly after his release from that marriage, Gable and Lombard married in a simple, private ceremony in Kingman, AZ.
His divorce settlement left him with little cash at the time so Carole forked out the money for the place they both wanted. They bought and lived in what was back then a rural ranch homestead in Encino, California.
Gable disliked the Hollywood party scene and Carole obviously was fine with that. They both loved the solitude and distance from Hollywood while enjoying their ranch living among their horses, chickens, dogs, cats as well as the various crops of the large ranch.
He liked to hunt and fish. Carole being a noted tomboy, easily fit into those pursuits. They hoped for children and her want was to raise them at the Ranch, but after a number of miscarriages and various medical pursuits, it seemed she wasn't able to have them.
If you were to dig into their life stories, you'll find differing opinions, views, gossip stories, etc. - someone seems to always have some kinda inside scoop on their lives.
I take my cue from basic human nature, which I think helps cut through a lot of the confusing stuff. First off, it's very believable they were very much in love and wanting a simpler, more real life for themselves.
Gable (born William Clark Gable) came from Ohio and from troubled family circumstances. Lombard (born Jane Alice Peters) was born into wealth, but her mother left her husband and brought Carole out to Los Angeles when she was 12.
Both had tough experiences in their young home lives ... and even with the success, money and fame they eventually achieved, each seemed to crave a simpler life amid the craziness and stifling control of the studios and movie industry.
One aspect of this tragedy that will be easy to miss in the room within the Pioneer Saloon articles that cover the crash is that Clark Gable not only lost the woman he loved in that crash. It was actually a triple loss for him.
He had become close and had affections and respect for Carole's mother, Bess Peters. His own mother died when Clark was an infant, so he never knew motherly love ... something he accepted with Carole's mother.
Also killed in that crash was Otto Winkler, his press agent who had become a close personal friend. He was with Clark and Carole when they eloped in Kingman, AZ., and served as best man for their wedding.
Clark Gable had asked Otto to accompany Carole to look after her and her mother and be there if needed during her tour as he was in the middle of filming 'Somewhere I'll Find You.'
Accounts state that right after receiving word of the crash, Gable originally came to Vegas and stayed at the El Rancho Vegas, but wanted to go and help in the search for possible survivors. He was dissuaded from that, but wanted to at least get as close as possible to the place where that work was being done.
That would of been Goodsprings. It was the closest town to Mt. Potosi and shortly after the crash, the Pioneer Saloon and Fayle Hotel became the epicenter for those involved in the rescue/recovery effort. It just makes sense then that he would go to Goodsprings.
To me, it's easily believable he sat, drank and waited ... hoping against hope that somehow, the people he loved survived the crash. In time he learned everyone died in that crash - 15 service men, Carole, her mother Bess, Otto and the crew.
After a period of mourning, he returned to finish 'Somewhere I'll Find You'. He then enlisted into what was then the U.S. Army Air Force before it was made into a branch of its own.
There's a bit of speculation as to why he insisted on joining ... as well as a lot of work by the studios to shield their number one star since he would not be dissuaded from joining.
It has been prominently noted that even though he did a number of films after that and married twice after losing Carole, that "he was never the same after that".
His last film was 'The Misfits', directed by John Huston and written by Arthur Miller, which also starred Miller's wife at the time - Marilyn Monroe. It also starred Montgomery Clift.
'Misfits' would also be Marilyn Monroe's last completed film. The films story begins in Reno, Nevada and was shot on location in Reno, Carson City and surrounding outlying areas.
It's been regarded by many critics as Gable's best performance. It's noted that Gable at the time felt the same.
This film is an interestingly stark view on a few levels. The big one is Monroe's character being so revealingly close to who she actually was ... an irresistible beauty with a naive and simple soul, but too easily distracted, confused and troubled ... always searching, needing someone and something to believe in and cling to.
Miller, one of the best writers of his day, crafts a role for her in this film that reflects onto the background of their 5 year marriage, which had been deteriorating and began to crash during the filming of this movie.
The beginning of the films story is Monroe's character, Roslyn, right after a divorce. It's noted that the atmosphere and key individuals involved in the filming were all going through hard times in their lives ... and those times laced its way into the film.
Reading about those hard times during its filming adds quite a different texture and context that deepens and adds to the character of this film.
I won't be a spoiler and say more, but if you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend adding it to your classic film bucket list.
I'll leave the rest of the Hollywood intrigues, stories and details for you to follow up on if you're curious enough.
Clark Gable died right after filming ended for 'Misfits' on November 16th, 1960. He was buried in Glendale, California next to Carole, her mother and Otto.
Getting to the Pioneer Saloon is really super easy. From Las Vegas you head south on I-15 as if heading to Los Angeles, and about 30 miles later you'll begin to see the Gold Strike hotel and casino right there on I-15.
On your approach you'll see a sign for Jean - Goodsprings/Pioneer Saloon.
The Goodsprings/Pioneer Saloon exit is to the right headed west. You'll travel a two lane road about 7 miles and the very first spot you'll see coming into Goodsprings is the Pioneer Saloon. Ya can't miss it.
Jean is to your left and where the Gold Strike is. The town, originally called Goodsprings Junction, was renamed by George Fayle after his wife. He also was the one who built the Pioneer Saloon.
If you're coming in from Los Angeles it will be the opposite. Not long after passing Stateline - Primm, Nevada, (where Buffalo Bills and Whiskey Pete's are located), you'll see the Gold Strike hotel on the right side of I-15.
You'll see the same sign, Jean - Goodsprings/Pioneer Saloon. Take the one heading west for Goodsprings.
One of the things I love is that Goodsprings is this little secluded town that is definitely off the beaten path. I love driving little rolling desert roads so it's always a little treat for me to cruise out to the Pioneer Saloon.
I believe you'll find the extraordinary history, food, expansive outdoor patio areas and company of people well worth your time when you make it out here to the Pioneer Saloon.
Who knows ... you might just get inspired to join that special club too!
Check it all out at the Pioneer Saloon website