Jerry E. Smith
This article was written on commission from John Harrah, son of casino magnate William F. Harrah. As of November 3, 1999 it had not yet been published. John Harrah's intent, I was told, was to publish this as a booklet for distribution to guests at his sprawling Reno estate, "Rancharrah." This is an up-dated and expanded version of the text that was submitted for publication, including more biographical material on the "Duke of Nevada," Norman Biltz. As best I can tell this was never published. You can visit the Rancharrah website at:
There are places renowned throughout the world, others that are the special secret places of the chosen few. There is a working ranch south of Reno, Nevada that many have seen but relatively few have visited; a place that has hosted both the famous and the camera-shy, the ordinary and the extraordinary. It is a place that is seldom mentioned in the papers and yet it is as well known, in some circles, as Buckingham Palace.
In the more than sixty years since its inception, few places can lay claim to having been visited by so many of this nation's powerful, influential, and famous people. Its guest book rivals that of William Randolph Hearst's "Castle" near San Simeon, California; it could be compared favorably even to that of the White House. Presidents, captains of industry and movie stars have all stayed in each. Its first guests called it "Camelot," but the name that stuck was simply "The Gentlemen's Ranch," a name as unpretentious as its fame-shunning builder, Norman H. Biltz, the "Duke of Nevada."
Like the White House, its occupants have changed over the decades. It too has been home to a long list of powerful men and glamorous women, some of whom will long be remembered, others who are already forgotten. Among those whose time with us is still fondly recalled was William F. Harrah, founder of the Harrah's casino and resort empire. Today, Biltz' Camelot, the Gentlemen's Ranch, is the home of John A. Harrah, and it still goes by the name his father dubbed it: "Rancharrah."
The Kennedy White House, three decades after the building of the Gentlemen's Ranch, was also known as Camelot --that name may have been more than mere coincidence. Esther Auchincloss Biltz, wife of Norman Henry Biltz, was Jacqueline Kennedy's aunt. The Kennedy-Shrivers were frequent guests of the Biltzes, and the future Jackie O. might well have ridden ponies or chased ducks across the estate's cool green meadows on summer frolics.
Only a few years after William Randolph Hearst began his never-finished project to recreate a medieval Spanish town on the California coast --one replete with a Gothic cathedral, "Casa Grande," as the main house and a Roman ruin (outdoor swimming pool) on the edge of "town" --Norman H. Biltz built a simpler, but no less enchanting compound of three Williamsburg-style mansions on 165 acres south of Reno.
Norman Biltz was a man who had the Midas touch, a man who grew rich by seeing the possibilities and seizing the moment. At the age of 25, in 1927, Norman Biltz had already made enough money as a salesman to drive to work in his own Rolls-Royce. Following the Crash of '29 the economy went on a wild roller coaster ride and Norman Biltz rode that coaster from a stomach-in-your-mouth descent to a screaming with delight rush to the top.
In 1932 a tidal wave of ranches falling into receivership swept across Nevada, and Norman Biltz, who in three short years had climbed from a post-crash near disaster to self-made millionaire, bought and resold hundreds of them. He kept over 40,000 acres of prime Humboldt River country for himself, and in so doing became one of the state's largest ranchers and landholders. At that time he also acquired a number of parcels south of Reno on which he built his dream home.
By the late 1930s Biltz's combined Reno estate was approximately 165 acres of meadows, ponds, and tall cottonwoods. The early 1940s saw the addition of the three Williamsburg-style manor homes, designed and built by Norman Biltz himself. The three mansions were constructed at the same time that he, in partnership with steamship magnate Stanley Dollar, built the Holiday Hotel in downtown Reno. Although World War II rationing was in full swing, he was able to finesse permits to obtain the finest building materials for the hotel, and the homes. The graceful, two-story mansions were constructed, for example, with an abundance of fine woods including redwood, oak, cedar, and mahogany.
Despite several changes of ownership, the Holiday Hotel bore that name for over 50 yeas, until its recent closure. By a strange twist of fate, two monuments to the lives of Rancharrah's most celebrated owners, Bill Harrah and Norman Biltz, sit across the street from each other. William F. Harrah created the finest collection of automobiles in the world. The 200 odd surviving cars of that collection are housed in the National Automobile Museum, located just across Lake Street from the Holiday Hotel. In a physical metaphor for the lives of these two men, those two concerns are joined together by the recently refurbished and reerected original Reno Arch sign. It was the first of three arches that would proclaim the city's slogan: "Biggest Little City In The World."
Norman Biltz placed his home near the center of his south Reno property, with the two additional mansions some distance from it, one to the east and the other to the west, facing each other across a broad meadow. Of the Biltz mansion all that remains today is the carriage house. John Harrah built his grand new home where it stood.
The other two manor homes that Norman Biltz erected are still standing, however. The one on the east side of the Biltz estate was owned by Carole Stevens at the time of this writing. It faces west, with large windows looking out across the trees and pasture lands of Rancharrah to picture-postcard sunsets over the Sierras. The third of Norman Biltz's Williamsburg-style homes was originally called the West Mansion, but today it's known as the Crummer House. Currently unoccupied, it faces east toward the shopping mall and burger stand sprawl of South Virginia Street, and looking beyond, to the stark desert ranges that make up the eastern boundary of the Truckee Meadows.
In 1943 Norman Biltz sold the west-facing eastern mansion to Roy Crummer, one of his many business partners. Roy and his wife, Hazel, lived there for a number of years, until illness necessitated that they move across the meadow to the West Mansion. The Crummers made that move because Roy could no longer walk up and down stairs, and they found that they could construct a stairway elevator chair more easily at the West Mansion. That's how it became the Crummer House, while Carole Stevens' place is called the Crummer Mansion. A curious side-note to this is that the elevator chair is still there, and the ghost of Roy Crummer has purportedly been seen riding in it several times since his death in 1966.
When the Crummers moved out of their home to live in the West Mansion, they sold it to the widow McCormick. Murial Hubbard McCormick was a scion of two famous Eastern families: the International Harvester McCormicks, descendants of Cyrus McCormick, inventor of the reaper; and the Rockefellers, via the marriage of Cyrus McCormick's heir, Harold McCormick, to Edith Rockefeller, John D. Rockefeller, Sr.'s daughter. Murial McCormick entertained members and hangers-on of the huge Rockefeller family every summer, the grassy pastures of the estate giving them a chance to ride about the ranch on horseback playing at being cowboys.
While Mrs. McCormick and her "pack" of Eastern "dudes" partied in high style, the Crummer's across the meadow had no less famous guests of their own. President Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower were frequent visitors, both when Ike was a General and on into his Presidency. Ike came to the Gentlemen's Ranch "compound" to rest and relax. He loved to fish the ponds on the property, and on summer nights, he could be found walking the irrigation ditches, listening to the frogs and crickets.
Eisenhower was duly famous for his love of the game of golf and frequented the Washoe County Golf Course on Plumas Street not far from the ranch. That government owned golf course is a physical reminder of the power that the Duke of Nevada's political machine possessed. Norman Biltz, again with Holiday Hotel partner Stanley Dollar, wanted to develop a housing district around a golf course, but they needed a golf course first. His people in county government had little trouble producing one for him. It is no coincidence that the course was located near the Gentlemen's Ranch --that's where Biltz, and Dollar, wanted it. Dollar's home was, likewise, located not far away.
Although largely forgotten today, Norman Biltz, when he lived at the Gentlemen's Ranch, was possibly the most powerful man in Nevada, perhaps even in the history of Nevada. In addition to his not inconsiderable personal wealth, Norman Biltz had friends virtually everywhere across the state and at every level of Nevada's various business communities, society and politics. Among those friends were the 50 or 60 multimillionaires whom he personally imported to Nevada by selling them Nevada property. What was more, he had rich and powerful friends in every state of the union, particularly among the "old money" families of America's Eastern Establishment --he was close personal friends with such men as Joseph P. Kennedy, Bernard Baruch, and Herbert Hoover. Many of them and their families quietly spent time at the Gentlemen's Ranch, out of sight of the press and public.
In time Norman and Esther Biltz, with their children grown and gone, decided to leave the Gentlemen's Ranch. They sold their mansion to a Ms. Flick in 1955, who sold it to William F. Harrah in 1957. Bill Harrah moved in and renamed his portion of the Gentlemen's Ranch, some 94 acres of it, establishing "Rancharrah," on March 1, 1957. Despite the changes, the Rancharrah neighborhood continued to be a friendly group of privileged and pampered people living the good life.
It should come as no surprise that Bill Harrah also played host to the rich and famous. As the owner of two major entertainment facilities, one in Reno and the other at Lake Tahoe, Bill Harrah counted some of the top celebrities of the day as his friends. His regular guests included Frank and Barbara Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. (who had a penchant for dancing on the coffee table). Bill Cosby was a fan of Harrah's art collection, especially the sculpture. Liza Minelli was also a regular, as well as Red Skelton, Waylon Jennings, Wayne Newton, Paul Anka, and on and on.
Bill purchased Rancharrah during one of the most important periods in the history of gambling in America. Prior to the advent of Harrah's management reforms in the early 1950s, casino management was pretty much a one man, or family, operation; very much a "seat of the pants," will or whim sort of thing. By and large, casino operators in the early years were as individualist and quirky a lot as any writer could ever hope to get a chance to write about. In many ways the "wild west" lived on into the Twentieth Century through them and their casinos --one example of this was famed Tombstone, Arizona lawman Wyatt Earp, who became a pit boss at the Great Northern Casino in Goldfield, Nevada at the beginning of this century.
Bill Harrah was cut from that same colorful cloth. But while the uniqueness of his personality remained little changed, his management style altered radically in the early 1950s after a near fatal motoring accident. At the time that Bill Harrah founded Rancharrah he was inaugurating changes that would revolutionize his industry, forever changing gaming by changing the way casinos were run.
He had made his entry into Reno in 1937, by opening a tiny bingo parlor. It was in an "awful location" (as he described it) and closed up after just two months. Undaunted, he opened another bingo club the following year. For the next decade he did middling well, moving his operation through several locations, changing it from a bingo parlor to a casino, all the while slowly expanding. Throughout that early period he ran his "joint" (as bars and casinos were called in those days) more by gut feeling and personal taste than anything else --until the accident. Then, after flying out of the driver's side door to land on his head --at eighty mile-an-hour! --in the middle of Virginia Street during a drunken argument with his wife, he, as the old timers would say, "got religion." Miraculously, he recovered from the broken neck he received in that spill; he recovered from the alcohol, too. He climbed on the "wagon" and went the next seventeen years without touching a drop of liquor. It was then that he really got down to the business of running his business.
In 1952 he began organizing the company along corporate lines, dedicating 18-hour days to business consultants, organizational charts and management meetings. He brought in efficiency and other experts (in one controversial move he even hired Stanford University to do studies), lifting casino operations into the scientifically managed, "blue chips" realm of IBM and Sears & Roebuck. He became a real no-nonsense executive, skipping the small talk to get down to business. He never seemed to be "off the job" and was always in contact with his management, constantly making notes on ways to improve the operation.
Sobriety and modern management techniques paid off for Bill Harrah in spades. From 1953 to 1969 his Reno casino grew from a small club on Virginia Street (with most of it located on the alley behind Virginia Street) to a twenty-four story high-rise hotel-casino complex occupying a major portion of two city blocks; one with eight restaurants including a diner-theater that featured some of the hottest acts of the day.
At the same time, starting in 1955 (two years before buying Rancharrah), he began operations on Lake Tahoe's south shore --this in the face of sagely advice from old time gamblers who said he'd go bust investing in an area where, because of severe winters, the gaming season was a scant two months long. By the time his plans for Tahoe would be complete in 1977, Bill Harrah, through his innovation of busing clients to his properties (and even owning the snow plows to clear their way there) would transform Tahoe into a year 'round vacation destination. He would also come to own the only Five Star, Five Diamond resort in North America --and 84% of the first purely casino, publicly traded stock on the New York Stock Exchange --and be worth over 100 million dollars.
Bill Harrah lived out his days at Rancharrah --not that he was there a great deal. Part of his "cure" had been to take up fishing, which took him to Idaho and the Salmon River. He discovered real pleasure in fishing for salmon and steelhead, and riding horseback to his favorite fishin' hole. Also, as a dedicated car buff he was regularly on the go attending antique motoring events and rallies --such as the time he spent a month driving the Thomas Flyer (winner of the 1906 New York to Paris Around The World Race) from Seattle to Philadelphia --and twice he showed portions of his incredible collection overseas.
In 1974 Bill Harrah married Verna Rae Harrison. Verna was destined to be the sixth and final Mrs. William F. Harrah. Bill seemed to have found real happiness with her; those last four years of his life being the best by nearly all accounts. In that same year Ms. Stevens bought and moved into the old Crummer Mansion of Mrs. McCormick's, "next door" to the Harrahs.
Bill Harrah had acquired the option to purchase all of Mr. Crummer's land at his death, and did so through the Stanharrah Corporation, which he owned. Stanharrah was the entity that eventually bought up nearly all of the tiny town of Stanley, Idaho (population 47 in 1970), which was near Bill Harrah's favorite fishing spot on the Salmon River. On October 29, 1975 Bill Harrah took possession of the Crummer House and the five acres it sits on, pushing Rancharrah's acreage up to just one acre shy of the "century" mark. Carole Stevens reports that her house was the only one in the compound that did not eventually wind up in the Harrah Estate. As she put it, "Bill Harrah tried to buy it, but I wouldn't sell because I wanted to raise my family here. And I did."
What was Rancharrah like in those days? In The House of Harrah, an article published in California Living Magazine in February, 1978, just four months before Bill Harrah's death, (though appearently written the fall before) author Walter Blum sketched a day he spent with America's First Family of Gambling:
The white gate opens, electrically, and you drive through a tunnel of trees draped in the orange colors of autumn, to a rambling white house with a green roof. There are tennis courts and basketball hoops and signs saying, "Watch for Children and Pets." Behind the house is a sweep of manicured lawn with ducks and a swan pond shaded by weeping willows. In the distance, the awesome east porch of the Sierra slices across the sky.
[Bill Harrah is...] A tall, pale-faced man in his sixties... a shy, ramrod-straight man who could be taken for a bank auditor... It is his voice that strikes you about Harrah. It is flat, toneless, but given to sudden flashes of excitement that descend like lightning and then disappear. Getting close to Harrah is not easy. He is a difficult, complex man who flees the limelight and yet craves the company of celebrities and the glitter of show business... He is a man of contradictions. You learn that Harrah, who owns one of the country's best-known gambling establishments, himself rarely gambles.
Verna Harrah ...is much younger than [Bill], a fragile-looking blonde with a Dresden doll complexion who used to be a cocktail waitress, and then went into real estate. "But I gave that up when I married Bill," she says.
"We have a wonderful marriage," Harrah confides, "Super good. We just love being with each other."
When in town, the Harrahs generally rise around seven. A touch of a bedside switch opens the drapes. Another switch activates three built-in tv sets in the wall so Harrah can decide which morning newscast he wants to watch. Then it's into sweat suits for a quick jog around the estate with Pierre, Maurice and Bobo, the poodles, keeping pace. And back for a leisurely breakfast of Miller's bran, yogurt and coffee.
After breakfast, Harrah repairs to his dressing room to select his wardrobe for the day. His outfits are tailored in Beverly Hills and Rome, and each hanger is numbered and lettered. Each time Harrah wears a suit or jacket or pair of pants, he writes the date on a card dangling from the hanger. "That way I won't wear the same thing twice," he explains.
Later that day, Blum was sitting in the living room of Rancharrah with the Harrah's, the poodles, and a gray African parrot named Mumbles. Continuing his tale, he relates:
"Good Morning," says Mumbles.
"Can't you say something else?" Verna asks.
"Good morning," Mumbles insists.
The gray parrot, aware that there are visitors, waddles cautiously across the soft living room carpet. Bill and Verna relax on pillowy sofas facing the aquarium. The parrot wanders into the next room. Outside, in front of the house, there are running pens for the horses and an unfurled American flag flutters in the cold, thin Nevada air.
"It's beautiful here, isn't it?" Verna says.
"We love it," says Bill.
The parrot shrieks from the next room. Harrah blinks happily behind his big tinted glasses.
[He] ...is fondling his poodle, Pierre. He has turned the dog on its back and is rubbing its stomach thoughtfully.
The livingroom at Rancharrah is peaceful beyond belief. A question has been thrown out. "What's the ultimate satisfaction of this?" he muses. "Well, profits, of course --and doing a good job. You know, it's really easy once you get into it. The two things you deal with are people and money, and both are very interesting to me."
But everyone knows the odds are stacked in favor of the house. Doesn't that bother him?
"Are you kidding?" he laughs, spasmodically. "They're having a great time, the customers. If they weren't here what would they be doing? Why, many of them would be by themselves at home, sitting alone. For a lot of people, coming to us is a big social thing.
"Naturally, we're not anxious for the big loser. We don't want the ten-thousand-dollar-a-year man who's going to lose fifty-thousand dollars and da-da-da. We don't want to mess up anyone's business, or life. It's just a big problem when that happens. Things like that we try to avoid."
"Oh, but there are people like that," says Verna. "Just like there are people who drink themselves to death. You really can't be the policeman of the world. People are adults. They have to take care of themselves. They have to make their own decisions."
"Well, the government's doing that already, Verna," Harrah notes glumly. "Pretty soon, we won't have to make any decisions at all."
Bill Harrah died two days after heart surgery at age 67, on June 30, 1978. Per his voluminous will, his estate was divided in two --half went to his young widow, Verna (then 33), and the other half was left in trust to his two sons, John Adam (12) and Tony Lee (10) (both of whom had been adopted by Bill and his second wife, Scherry). Bill left the Rancharrah house and 15 acres to Verna, as well as houses and other real estate in Stanley and Sun Valley, Idaho; the remainder of the Rancharrah acreage was split between the boys.
Shortly after Verna received the property she put Rancharrah up for sale, but changed her mind and withdrew it from the market soon after. In 1981 she again put the house on the market, but there were no takers until 1992. It was then that John Harrah, grown to young manhood in his mid-twenties, decided to make Rancharrah his home and bought out Verna and Tony's Rancharrah holdings. At the same time he began reacquiring other tracts of property from the original Gentlemen's Ranch. Over the years Norman Biltz, the inveterate real estate salesman, had sold off bits and pieces of the ranch. John Harrah bought back three of these "lost" lots so that by the end of 1994 Rancharrah stood at about 140 acres.
Norman Biltz, financier and land speculator extraodinaire, in addition to co-owning Reno's Holiday Hotel with shipping magnate Stanley Dollar, was also one of the early owners of the Cal-Neva Lodge on Lake Tahoe's North Shore. The Cal-Neva has also passed through a number of hands, including Frank Sinatra's. Biltz and Bill Harrah were not the only hotel and casino owners to own a piece of Biltz's Camelot, however...
The "Wright property," for example, is one of two nine-acre sections of Rancharrah temporarily owned by a casino magnate. Acquired by Norman Biltz in the 1930s, like all the rest of Rancharrah, in later years it became the residence of a Reno lawyer, one Roger Wright. The Wright property passed to Bill Pennington, co-owner of Circus-Circus under some financing arrangement. William Norman Pennington was the boss of the Circus-Circus Hotel and Casino in Reno, while his partner, William Gordon Bennett ran the Circus-Circus in Las Vegas. They made the Forbes "400" list in October, 1987, when Bennett and Pennington were ranked as the 257th and 258th wealthiest Americans, respectively. John Harrah bought the Wright property from Mr. Pennington in 1994.
The other piece of the ranch that was once owned by a casino mogul is known as the "Bancroft property." Again, Biltz picked up this parcel in the 1930s, selling it to Robert F. Udall in 1951. Udall in turn sold it to Henry S. Russell in 1953. In 1958 Russell sold it to Ernest J. Primm, owner of Reno's Primadonna Club. Ernie Primm was no less colorful an individual than Bill Harrah, if not as well known.
Primm died in 1981 at the age of 73. He was eulogized in several Nevada newspapers, one of which, critical of the "corporatization" of the casino business, bemoaned the loss of Nevada's "individualistic pioneers" who built the Reno gaming industry, saying: "In the old days, when men like Primm dominated, the casinos were an extension of the owners' personalities, of their whims, gambles and dreams." Ernie Primm's management style was as close to the opposite of Bill Harrah's as one could get. Where Bill Harrah used every tool in the arsenal of modern scientific management (inventing a number of them as well), Ernie Primm was a "Rhodes Scholar" of the Seat of Your Pants School of Management --he very definitely ran his casino his way.
Among its many distinctions, The Primadonna was one of the "gaudiest" casinos in Reno's long history of eye-poppers. It was a real trendsetter with its bold colors and flamboyant decorations, its richly upholstered restaurant, the stunning carpeting with bright orange background and geometric figures, and its famous exterior with huge statues of showgirls. The Primadonna is gone now, the Flamingo Hilton occupies that site today.
Though hardly a match to Bill Harrah, Ernie Primm did have a significant impact on the gaming industry in Reno. That impact went beyond merely running a famous club to actually determining where clubs could be located within the city. Prior to the Primadonna all casinos were "red-lined" by the City Council to the east side of Virginia Street. Ernie wanted to open his casino on the forbidden west side. Primm fought with the City --and a coalition of casino owners, led in part by Bill Harrah, who opposed expanding downtown gaming --for four years to get a permit to build there. "Looking back now," wrote one editorialist, "it seems incredible that Primm should have had such difficulties installing a casino across the street from existing casinos. Yet the City Council steadfastly refused permission." Ernie even took his case to court, losing in both district court and the state Supreme Court. In the end he had to wait until new elections changed the make-up of the Council before he got his license.
A decade later he walked down a nearly identical road when he battled the City Council and then-Mayor Bud Baker for over a year to gain permission to expand the Primadonna to Sierra Street --another landmark move. The greater of these two victories, by far, was the original gaining of the City Council's okay to build on the west side of Virginia Street, because that concession changed Reno forever. After the Primadonna was built, several more casinos soon followed: The Horseshoe Club, The Nugget, Circus-Circus, and others. In short order the downtown section of Virginia Street became the Casino Row we know today, as retail businesses were displaced by ever increasing gaming operations.
In recognition of the contribution Ernie Primm made to Nevada gaming, in 1996 a columnist for the Las Vegas Sun suggested "Primm" as the name for a town on the California-Nevada border in Clark County (wherein lies Las Vegas). The town was then called Stateline, and since there already existed a community with that name on the south shore of Lake Tahoe (Harrah's Tahoe is located there) changing its name to avoid confusion seemed like a good idea. "Primm" was a logical a choice, considering that the town had three casinos --all owned by the Primadonna Corporation! Shortly after the town was officially renamed Primm, it received a great deal of unwanted national attention. A young girl was brutally murdered by a deranged teenaged boy in the restroom of one of its casinos.
After Ernie Primm's death, his piece of the Gentlemen's Ranch was sold in 1984 to Richard G. Campbell. Campbell in turn sold it to Paul Bancroft in 1989, John Harrah bought it in 1994.
John has acquired one other unit of the original Gentlemen's Ranch: the Beedle property. The Beedle House lies to the west of the Crummer House. Biltz sold it to a Mr. Tamka in 1939, who sold it to William Frazer in 1943, who promptly turned around and sold it to Morse Little three months later. Little held on to the property for three years, selling it to Hadley S. Beedle in 1946. Like Bill Harrah and Ernie Primm, Mr. Beedle lived on his piece of the Gentlemen's Ranch for the remainder of his life. At Hadley's death in 1989 the Beedle clan consisted of his widow Mildred and their children: Hadley B. and Mary, plus two of Mildred's from a previous marriage, Stephen Hanks and Susan Thresher, and twelve grandchildren. The Beedles raised Arabian horses, contributing, in a way, to the equestrian tradition of Rancharrah. Daughter Mary, a retired school teacher at the time of this writing, similarly raised show dogs.
Hadley S. Beedle, though well to do, was certainly not in the "champagne dreams and caviar wishes" class of his more famous neighbors. He was the owner and chief executive of several automobile supply companies, including Reno Motor Supply, which he co-founded with his father in 1923, and the Susanville Motor Supply Co. Hadley was born in Angel's Camp, California, September 2, 1899, and graduated from Reno High in 1917. He was one of Nevada's original airmail pilots in the 1920s and an avid ham radio operator throughout his life. As well as a member of the Chamber of Commerce he had been a charter member of the Nevada White Hats, and a member of the Airmail Pilots Association, the International Arabian Horse Association, the Comstock Arabian Association, and had served as the grand master and installing officer of Reno Council No. 4. He and Norman Biltz were both listed in the 1949 edition of Who's Who In Nevada. Typical of the press-shy Biltz, his listing was but four lines line long, while Mr. Beedle's took up half a column. After Hadley Beedle's death his estate sold the property to John Harrah in 1992.
Time has changed Rancharrah, but perhaps not too much. Bill Harrah's home, the central mansion of the Gentlemen's Ranch, has been mostly torn down to make way for John Harrah's new house. Several buildings, like the new indoor arena, have been added, others have been removed. Yet, throughout the years the estate has remained a working ranch. One with, at one time or another, cows and bulls; horses, particularly Arabians; and a wide variety of fowl including geese, ducks, swans, pheasants, quail, chickens and turkeys.
Today the main activity of Rancharrah is the cutting horse program. On average, some 40 cutting horses are kept and trained on the ranch, as well as worked and shown in the indoor and outdoor arenas. As part of the cutting horse program 300-odd head of cattle are kept for training the horses, and hay is grown on the ranch to feed them. Besides the livestock, many species of wild critters scamper or flap across the property, including hawks and doves, coyotes, several species of squirrels, and a large population of marmots.
There is one other activity of consequence at Rancharrah --fine art. It is hardly surprising that the son of a connoisseur and collector of art should himself become an artist. John Harrah, a highly regarded photogra
Return to A HISTORY OF