Did it all begin at Arrowhead Inn in Loveland (Branch Hill)

By Chuck Gibson

LOVELAND, OH (April 30, 2021) – Arrowhead Inn was once a popular supper club featuring “headline” entertainers and some surprising back room action. 

The “Beginning” slide from the Dan Peterson presentation of “Loveland to Las Vegas” (Photo by Chuck Gibson)

Dan Peterson, Loveland Museum Center, shared the glorious, if not notorious history of the Arrowhead Inn with a group of more than 30 during the April 14, “Snack and Learn” at the Loveland Museum Center (LMC). The story of the land where Arrowhead Apartments now sits begins nearly 100 years ago as Emstead Farm, opens the Emstead Golf Course, takes a twist into a thriving entertainment destination as the Arrowhead Inn. The story had lots of twists and turns leading from the back room of the Arrowhead Inn all the way to Vegas.

As the story goes, a man named Edgar Gaither, a well-respected black businessman from a mixed marriage in Kentucky, first purchased the land he called the Emstead Farm and opened the Emstead Golf Course. His golf partner was a popular local man named Joseph Bauer. Gaither leased some of the property to Bauer to start the supper club known as Arrowhead Inn. Dan, Sam, and Harold Nason (Nason Brothers) joined in the venture as operators of Arrowhead Inn, while the familiar respected Joe Bauer was the “face” of the business – the front man. It was around 1926 and before long the Arrowhead Inn was struggling, some say due to parking issues, and had Bauer and the Nason brothers broke.

Dan Peterson, Loveland Museem Center, tells the story of “Loveland to Las Vegas” during April 14, Lunch and Learn at LMC (Photo Chuck Gibson)

This is where Peterson introduced a man named Sammy Shrader into the story. Shrader was from Cleveland with reported ties to the “Cleveland Syndicate”. He invested the grand sum of $4,100 dollars for renovation (new curtains and better parking) in 1928 leaving the Nason brothers to continue running the operation with Joe Bauer still the face of the Arrowhead Inn. This was beginning of the “Big Name Entertainment” era for Arrowhead Inn 1928-1935 providing jobs during the “Depression”. Some believe those jobs may have been the reason no one was making a fuss about the back room action on 20 Black Jack tables, 6 Craps tables, 3 Roulette tables, Poker tables and slot machines.   

A collection of the Arrowhead Inn gambling chips (Photo Chuck Gibson)

Peterson shared historic photos and artifacts throughout his presentation of the thrilling story of Arrowhead Inn and “seedy” back room gambling which was apparently a big part of the “entertainment” value for visitors then. The LMC “Snack and Learn” group was also entertained Peterson threw in several quiz questions during his presentation. Where was gambling first evident? Not sure anyone on hand knew the answer was Ancient China. How about: What gambling city makes the most money?  No, not Las Vegas, not by a long-shot. The gambling city with the most revenue is Macau, China with more than three times the revenue of Las Vegas.

The Snack and Learn group listens as Dan Peterson shares the Arrownead Inn story (Photo Chuck Gibson)

Other fun  and surprising facts learned by the audience included the first slot machine was invented by a car mechanic and was called the Liberty Bell (guess because all the bell sounds) and 70-percent of gamblers play the slots. Peterson moved the story forward to 1937 when a new Prosecuting Attorney Frank Roberts in Clermont County staged a raid on Arrowhead Inn busting up the back room gambling facilities.

Assorted newspaper headlines foretold the end for the Arrowhead Inn (Photo Chuck Gibson)

It was headline news in the Cincinnati Enquirer and it was the end of the road for Arrowhead Inn. To avoid a big trial and unwanted attention on the illegal gambling trade, Sam Nason took the wrap and received a $500 fine and 90-day suspended sentence. Peterson says popular theory is someone was paid off to ensure the light penalty. Arrowhead Inn closed in 1937, the action moved to Newport, Kentucky. Rick and Lynn Roesel, friends of Sue and Dan Peterson from Ft. Thomas, Kentucky had some first-hand knowledge of the Newport stories.

“Sammy Shrader lived very close to where Lynn lived,” said Rick Roesel. “We went to school with kids and grandkids of the big figures. We knew about the Northern Kentucky scene, but we were unaware of this.”

Peterson told them and they came out to Loveland Museum Center to hear the story. Roesel’s learned a lot of it was intertwined with the Campbell County, Kentucky stories. Rick was struck by the top tier level of the Arrowhead Inn, “like a Beverly Hills Supper Club” compared to the “cheap” places in Newport.

It was quite a thing when they ran the gamblers out,” he said. “It was the equivalent of a major factory shutting down because all those jobs were lost. All those people went to Vegas. If you went out there looking for a job and you had worked the tables in Newport, you were hired on the spot. There were a lot of connections.”

As a kid growing up there, Lynn remembered her next door neighbor was a bag man (anonymous figure used to pick-up and deliver the illegal gambling money). Her mom was friends with the lady next door who confided in her.

“Over the years, she kind of let my mom in on stuff,” said Lynn Roesel. “Originally they had their own little café with gambling in the back. It was called T.C. Café in Newport. We knew because my mom and Vivien, Vivien was her name, would talk.” 

Lynn’s dad was a lawyer on Bobby Kennedy’s committee to clean up. They were worried about whether or not he’d tell on the next door neighbor. No one asked, he didn’t tell and the bag man was saved from prosecution and moved down to Nassau. She was surprised to learn from Dan, this kind of thing was happening on the Ohio side of the river because she knew what was happening on the Kentucky side.

“Eventually we went down to Nassau,” she said. “Tommy was working in those casinos in Nassau.”

Sue and Dan Peterson with their Northern Kentucky Friends Rick and Lynn Roesel following Dan’s Arrowhead Inn story presentation at LMC (Photo Chuck Gibson)

Lynn’s childhood neighbor Tommy may have moved his family to Nassau, but the Nason brothers took off in the 1960’s for Las Vegas where gambling was legal. As Dan Peterson wrapped up the journey of Loveland to Las Vegas with the Nason brothers involved with some of the most famous places in Vegas. Though they never were part of the “Cleveland Syndicate” they went on to operate The Sands, The Stardust, The Golden Nugget and others. Peterson hosted a lively question and answer discussion with the group of more than 30 at LMC. Many shared some of their own memories of the Elmstead Golf Course which remained active into the early 1970’s when excavation and construction began on the Arrowhead Apartments.

The roots of the gambling industry planted deep in our own community (Phtoo Chuck Gibson)

“It shows there is a lot of history in Loveland some people have heard and others know nothing about,” said Peterson. “People are very interested in what’s going on historically in this area. They love to hear the stories. This is an interesting one. In a lot of ways, this was the beginning of the gambling industry right here in Loveland – Branch Hill I should say.”

NOTE: Video of Dan Peterson’s “Loveland to Las Vegas” presentation will be available for viewing at the Loveland Museum Center.

CLICK HERE to visit Loveland Museum Center online and discover more Loveland History!