Just off of I-80 – the side that heads towards the town of Wendover (which spills over into Nevada) – and onto Reno (more than 500 long miles down the road), along the crusty, stinking banks of the Great Salt Lake, sits the Saltair Pavilion. A curiosity, an updated relic from another age. First built in 1893 as a resort and family-oriented amusement park, the building burned down in 1925. It was rebuilt only to go up in flames once again in 1931. It wasn’t until fifty years later that someone undertook to recreate the resort on the apparently doomed site. This time it wasn’t fire but water that plagued the new Saltair. The Great Salt Lake rose and flooded the building.
It’s nice and dry now – and is a functioning party and concert venue – (I’m sorely tempted to go see Jane’s Addiction who will perform there at the end of the month) but it retains an air of neglect. The latest building is loosely modeled on the ornate original, but the tarnished onion domes, dull adobe facade and pointed arches are a Las Vegas architect’s perversion of a Russian Orthodox church crossed with the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. Swallows’ nests crowd the ledges along the top of the building, windows are stained by the heavy salt air and bird droppings; and a handwritten sign taped to a side door window admonishes, “The Building is Closed No Bathrooms No Sightseeing No Trespassing Don’t Ask!!” When we were there it didn’t stop several people from trying to open the chained and locked door.