During the 1940s Hoosiers Mr. and Mrs. William “Bill” A. Tharpe traveled west to find a suitable location for a new investment idea—a motor inn. Advised by Mrs. Tharpe’s uncle, E.L. Cord, to investigate the “one sound state” of Nevada, the couple crisscrossed the state hoping to find the perfect site to build both a home and a motel. They selected a large open field on U.S. Highway 40 just south of Lovelock. The logical stop-off between Reno and Winnemucca for transcontinental automobile travelers, the town was perfectly situated for the Tharpes— little competition and close to the Cord’s vacation ranch. Unlike other tax immigrants to Nevada who stretched the legal meaning of “primary residence,” Mr. and Mrs. Tharpe “put their money where their mailbox was” and would live in Nevada for 25 years. (David W. Toll. The Complete Nevada Traveler, 2002) Cord also recommended hiring Paul Revere Williams to design their inn.
An advertisement in the December 1948 issue of The Nevada Magazine announced the spring opening of the “new and beautiful” Lovelock Inn. Described as a “house by the side of the road with an ever-welcome light shining for the travel weary,” the full-page ad promised both comfort and luxury for the traveler. Located a short distance from the nearby highway, the Tharpes were confident the western ranch-style, Nevada themed inn, designed by a famous California architect, would attract the sophisticated traveler.
Bill Tharpe closely monitored the progress of the Inn from his home next door. As a Midwesterner he insisted Williams design a solid, high quality, durable building resistant to the area’s extreme environment—maintaining the heat in the winter and cool in the hot summer. He wanted the 33 rooms to be quiet retreats for tired visitors. Completed at a cost of $260,000, the single story brick, wood and stone building included a 6-foot deep, wrap-around porch (image 4) and was topped by a bright red/orange roof—easily seen from the highway. (The roof is still visible today on Google Earth!)
Williams’ design for the motel was deceptively simple. The unadorned masonry exterior with large casement windows belied the luxurious interiors. (Images 6, 9, 11) Knotty pine, rock maple and wormwood were used for cornices, doors, ceilings and walls. Each guestroom was "air conditioned by refrigeration," and had a private, tiled bathroom—a sumptuous use of new technology for the time. Much of the materials, equipment and skilled labor were not locally available and were trucked in from the Reno-Carson City area, contributing to the project's high cost. A breezeway, similar to the porte-cochere found in Williams' California hotels, allowed guests to drive through the opening, stop near the registration desk window, sign in and then drive to the room. Though the Lovelock Inn was not as sumptuous as Williams’ redesign for the Beverly Hills Hotel or Arrowhead Springs Resort, the motel’s reputation in Pershing County was swank. (The Nevada Magazine)
The current owner of the Lovelock Inn has described Bill Tharpe as an “old fashioned, independent man who just didn’t want to change and stay modern.” While wanting the latest technology when the Lovelock Inn was built, he was resistant to staying current. The 1950s Lovelock Inn was described in travel magazines as “always at least one step ahead of the times,” but as the higher speeds on the new Interstate system shortened travel time or routed traffic away from Lovelock, the Tharpes refused to change with the business. After 23 years the couple retired, sold their home and the Inn and returned to Indiana.