Family Bike Tour of the Historic Buildings of Downtown Reno


1 Garvey House (1934) 589-599 California Avenue Built for Luella Garvey, a wealthy widow from L.A. who came to the high desert in 1929, this Colonial Revival residence is noteworthy not only because it was designed by Paul Revere Williams, but also because at the time of its construction in 1934 it was the most expensive home ever built in Reno, at $50,000.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and with the State Historic Preservation Office.  It has French Regency grillwork (reminiscent of the French Quarter in New Orleans), a large walled garden, and ornate fireplaces, and it was designed as a duplex for with Garvey herself living in the front of the home and her good friend and attorney living in the rear. In later years, the rear portion of the home was used for houseguests.  When it was constructed a common patio joined the two distinct portions of the house. It has since been enclosed and the house has been integrated into one dwelling. But even the current owner uses one half for living and rents out the other half.

Paul Revere Williams was the first African American to be admitted into the American Institute of Architects, and was also the recipient of the NAACP's highest award, the Springarm Medal.  His other designs include the spider-like Los Angeles International Airport and the Palm Springs Tennis Club.  Among 15 other properties in Reno that he designed are the main ranch house at Rancho San Rafael, the Loomis Apartments on Riverside Drive, and the El Reno Apartments.  He also designed personal homes for E.L. Cord (a 33,000 square foot home!), Anthony Quinn, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Frank Sinatra, and Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

Currently owned by: Ardith Baldwin who purchased it in 1993
2 Nixon Mansion (1907) 631 California Avenue The Nixon Mansion is an Italian villa built by U.S. Sen. George S. Nixon in 1907, 5 years before his death in 1912.   Nixon had made his fortune in banking, and he bought the land in 1906, from his business associate and colleague in the U.S. Senate, Francis G. Newlands who owned the adjacent property. Nixon was also a business partner of George Wingfield. In 1920, it was bought by Dr. William Johnston and his wife, who was the daughter of U.S. Sen. Francis Newlands and granddaughter of Sen. William Sharon.  She also owned "the Castle", at 825 California Ave.  The last years of her life she managed the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, which she inherited from Sharon.  The 15,325 sf mansion sits on 2.03 acres.  When it was built, it had 33-rooms, including 11 bedrooms, 7.5 baths, and 7 fireplaces, but now it has 8 bedrooms, 9 full baths and 4 half baths. The basement, alone, is 5,585 sf.  It was one of the first early homes in Reno to have an elevator.  It has excellent proportions, is accented with Classical details, a heavy tile roof, and has a solarium. In the early 1970's, the Board of Regents of the University of Nevada considered purchasing the mansion for its headquarters. In the mid-1970's, Dr. John Iliescu purchased the mansion with the intention of siting his medical practice here. A devastating fire in 1979 left this important landmark uninhabitable but it is now owned by Harry and Carla Hart, who purchased it in 2002 for $2M. They also own the adjoining property at 599 Ridge Street.
3 Mueller House (1923) 725 California Avenue Built in 1923 for Dr. Vinton Mueller, a prominent physician, this elegant 3 bedroom, 3.5 bath, 3,935 sf residence has a Mediterranean character typified by the stucco construction and tile roof. Note also the Classical entrance and elaborate Corinthian pilasters. Dr. Mueller was married to Mary Ruth "Mazie" Kinder, who had starred as Peter Pan in early London productions of the JAM. Barrie classic play of the same title. She inherited the great English historic estate, Checquers Court, upon the death of her first husband, Henry Jacob Delaval Astley, the pioneer aviator.  Her second husband was in the British army and that marriage did not pan out so she came to Reno for the "cure".  That is where she met Dr. Mueller.  They lived in this house until their deaths in the 1970s. 

Currently owned by: John La Gatta who bought it in 1997 for $875,000 and has restored it to look like a 1920's showcase for his father's illustrations, many of which have appeared in the New Yorker.
4 Payne House (1938) 745 California Avenue In 1938, Ed Parsons, Sr. designed for J.C. Penney executive Frank Russell Payne the English Tudor next to the home of his father-in-law, George C. Steinmiller.   Payne's flamboyant wife, Hazel, wrote "The Mystery of the Well Dressed Corpse" under the pen name of Greer Gay.  The storyline was about life in Reno in the 1940's-early 50's was published in 1953.  A superb example of the English Tudor style, this impressively scaled 5,363 sf residence has distinctive, finely crafted features and details. Note the tapestry effect of the decorative brickwork, the massive rough stone entrance and the steep, cross gabled roofline. It has 6 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, and a 2,077 sf basement.

Currently owned by: Gerald and Roberta Alderson who bought it in 2003.
5 Steinmiller House (1921) 761 California Avenue Built in 1921 for $12,000 by Reno's first dentist, George C. Steinmiller on a lot that was purchased from the Newlands Company. Jack Dempsey once rented the house and put a sparring ring in the side yard. That may have been in the summer of 1931 since the fight records show that he fought 3 exhibition fights in Reno in September of 1931.  Steinmiller's daughter, Helen, married architect Ed Parsons, Sr., who designed many commercial and residential buildings in northern Nevada.  Parsons was a champion preservationist who was instrumental in saving many of Reno's historic properties. Steinmiller's granddaughter, Alice Dray Parsons, lived in this house with her husband Charles McGinley until 2004.  The house has 4 bedrooms and 3.5 baths.

Currently owned by: Cal River Property LLC, which bought it in 2007 for $1,300,000.
6 Dexter-McLaughlin Mansion (1939) 775 California Avenue Built in 1939 on 2.9 acres by mahogany baron Irving Dexter, who had come from the Philippines to sit out World War II in a secure location. Mr. Dexter wanted his home to look like Mt. Vernon.   Frederic DeLongchamps drew up art deco plans for Mr. Dexter, but instead, Ed Parsons, Sr., son-in-law of neighbor George Steinmiller, was chosen as the architect for this house.   John "Mac" McLaughlin, an FBI agent who came to Reno in the 1920s to investigate gangsters laundering money in Reno banks, bought the mansion in 1943 because McLaughlin's wife loved this house so much and because he wanted to live near the men he was investigating.   The white 5,065 sf Colonial-type mansion had a simple rectangular plan, but now has an L-shaped plan, and a large scale open portico along the length of the original portion of the house.  The Federal entrance is flanked by side lights and headed with a fan light. The portico has the complete Classical order of column, with base, shaft and capital supporting an entablature, frieze, and cornice. The house had 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, 2 half baths, and 3 fireplaces. The separate guest house and pool were designed by Parsons in 1948.  Mr. McLaughlin took great pride in his home and was sometimes mistaken for the gardener when working in the yard.  

The McLaughlin family did not want to sell the home to commercial interests so it was on the market for a very long time. It is currently owned by Stephen and Beth Brennan, who bought it in 2000 for $1,050,000 and carried out a major remodel and addition in 2001.
7   Gonfiantini House (1930)


784 California Avenue Currently owned by Nello Gonfiantini who has received an award from the Historic Resources Commission for restoring and maintaining this Tudor revival home, built in 1930 that has something of the character of an English country cottage. He has owned the home since 1965, and his latest projects include a brick driveway and an ornamental iron fence. This charming home is notable for the effect of half-timbering, the rough undulating brick work on the first floor, fine leaded crystal windows and its slate gable roof with dormer windows.  The home is 3,049 sf, and has 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths.

Currently owned by: Nello Gonfiantini, who bought it in 1965.
8 The Castle (1920) 825 California Avenue Built by Mrs. William Johnston, who also owned the Nixon Mansion.    Architect Daniel Kirkoff had done design work for Mrs. William Johnston when her family owned the Palace Hotel in San Francisco so she chose him to design this "guest house" for her in 1920. It often accommodated the Johnston's children and grandchildren. The 6,555 sf French Country Chateau style house is laid out on six level s and was built of heavy native stone by Italian stone masons, and Ed Parsons was a hod carrier for them when he was a young man..  It was built as a group of apartments with 6 baths, 3 kitchens, and 4 fireplaces.  An artist named Shannon O'Keefe at one time had a studio in this house called "My River Studio".  David Wooden (artist) now lives here?

Currently owned by: Gwen O'Bryan, who bought it in 1980 from Dr. John Iliescu for $650,000.

More about the Palace Hotel:

 Opened in 1875 by Mrs. Johnston's grandfather, U.S. Senator William Sharon, who made millions in the Comstock lode and never got over his miner's habit of carrying a pistol, the $5,000,000 Palace was then considered the most luxurious hotel in the world. It had 800 rooms, and the smallest was 16 ft. square. Sarah Bernhardt stayed in an eight-room, suite with her parrot and baby tiger; General Grant came as a Civil War hero, had to mumble speeches when he lost his false teeth. Kipling shuddered at the spittoons, called the hotel "a seven-storied warren of humanity." President Harding died there.

The great San Francisco earthquake and fire in 1906 destroyed the Palace (Singer Enrico Caruso fled from the hotel with a towel wrapped around his neck and clutching an autographed picture of Teddy Roosevelt), but a new 600-room, $8,000,000 Palace was quickly built. Most notable feature: the Garden Court dining room, with its domed glass ceiling, marble pillars and crystal chandeliers.

Mrs. Johnston, who was born in the Palace Hotel, was its president from 1939 until it was purchased for $6,500,000 by the Sheraton Hotel chain in 1954 in a bidding war with Conrad Hilton who only offered her $4,500.000.

9 McKinley Park School (1909) 925 Riverside Drive Designed by George Ferris in the Spanish/Mission style.  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. It was built in 1909 as one of the city's first one-story schools.  It is one of the four elementary schools built in Reno around the turn of the century called the "Spanish Quartet", also known as "the Four Sisters". Two have since been destroyed, and the other remaining school, Mount Rose, has been renovated and is in use as an elementary school. The McKinley Park School is now the City of Reno's McKinley Park Arts and Culture Center.

The use of Mission Revival style has been attributed to the preference of school superintendent at the time, B.D. Billinghurst, who was enamored of Spanish architecture. However, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction reported to the legislature in 1915 that mission architecture was chosen as it "is especially adapted to one-story buildings," and he added "there is nothing better for school purposes than one-story buildings. The one-story plan eliminates the stair climbing so destructive to the nervous strength of pupils and teachers, and also renders danger from fire impossible."
The stucco-surfaced 14,652 sf school is U-shaped with a central open court and an arcade sheltering the main entry. A two-story central tower stands at the base of the U, with a one-story wing extending behind it. The school was renovated in 1999 and the rehabilitation effort was supported through grant funds from the National Park Service's Historic Preservation Fund.
10 The Dow House (1907) 935 Jones Street Built in 1907-1908 by Lisle Jamison in the Colonial Revival style with Queen Anne influences.  In 1932, it was a popular rooming house for divorce seekers. It is a 2,072  sf brick and wood frame house with windows double hung one over one. It has beveled glass on front and second floor windows.

Currently owned by:  Cheryl and Terry Lang, who bought it in 1996 for $247,000.

cross Riverside to look up, across river, at the back of the Nixon and Newlands mansions (#'s 1 and 32)

11 Lora J. Knight House (1931) 615 Riverside Drive Frederic J. DeLongchamps designed this house with matching cottage in 1931 for Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight, a prominent northern Nevada resident and philanthropist.  Ms. Knight wanted these homes built as both her winter home and to accommodate her guests before they made the long journey to Vikingsholm, her mansion on Emerald Bay, at Lake Tahoe. Mrs. Knight's generosity provided substantial monies for many causes, including educational opportunities for children who could not afford them; support of Charles Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic flight; and donations for the First Church of Christ, Scientist (now the Lear Theater).   The two-story Colonial Revival house has a wood frame with white clapboard siding.  The hip-on-gable roof, has Jerkin-head ends with a tight narrow eve overhang and shed dormers.  The windows are double hung 8/8, and the center dormer over the entry door utilizes a three-window grouping with arched molding. The cottage was one story with a pedimented entrance supported by squared Tuscan columns.   There were smaller matching houses behind the main house that were used by Mrs. Knight's fifteen staff members and for the overflow of visiting guests. During the summer months, Mrs. Knight would often come to Reno on business and sometimes her guests would accompany her. She would take them to lunch at the Riverside Hotel then drop them off to rest in this house. After her death in 1945, the house was sold to George Hart of Reno for $66,192.50. The 7,326 sf house is currently owned by R&R Advertising, whose 1999 remodeling and expansion of the house and cottage eliminated the swimming pool, the small house facing Bell Street, and much of the original landscaping, to accommodate more office space and parking. 
12 Lear Theater (1938) 501 Riverside Drive Built in 1938 and designed by Paul Revere Williams, this 7,935 sf Neoclassic Revival building was built as the First Church of Christ Scientist, and served as a church for 60 years, until 1998. It is a significant example of the Neoclassic style in the form of a basilica. The full height portico and its detailed pediment is supported by colossal columns with square bases and simple foliated capitals. The height is exaggerated, but the proportions are more slender than traditional columns. It has an irregular cross plan raised above the surrounding landscape.  The decorative pediment accentuates the center set of the doors. The projecting center gabled portico dominates the front and is transected by a gabled roof. Twin curving balustrades transition up to a raised terrace commanding an elegant entrance.  The windows are typically double hung with six over six. In the midsection of the east and west facades is a large tripart double hung window.  There is a 5,596 sf finished basement, and a 1,066 sf unfinished basement. This building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. This building was acquired by the Reno-Sparks Theater Coalition in 1997. The addition on the west side has been designed in conformance with the Secretary of Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation for Historic Buildings.

Currently owned by: Lear Theater, Inc.
13 St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral (1907), Rectory and School (1931) 310 W. Second Street and 151 Arlington Avenue

Need photo of school.
This large cathedral was built in 1907 for the Catholic Diocese of Nevada and uses Renaissance, Classical and Baroque motifs. It was partially rebuilt in 1910 after a fire. It is a brick edifice with a rusticated stone base.   The cathedral's stained glass windows depict Nevada historical scenes.

The rectory is a two-story brick Period Revival house with a red tiled roof. Slanted bay windows and a semi-circular arched entry with a recessed arched front door give the parish house interest. The rectory and school were used for the early 1990's film "Sister Act" starring Whoopi Goldberg.

The comparatively restrained school and rectory were designed in 1930 by Frederic J. DeLongchamps and were built in 1931.  Their institutional design differs greatly from the ornate cathedral. The school is a two story "T" shaped brick building with stone quoins on the sides. A cornice with a flower and chevron frieze sets off the red tile hipped roof. Tuscan pilasters flank the double door entry with a bow window and cast cross hung over the door. The doors and windows have all been replaced. The original doors were oak with stained glass insets and the windows were all triple hung casement. Other details include a large baroque shell over the entrance, a scrolled pediment, and a flower and wheat design on the capital.
14 El Cortez Hotel (1931) 239 W. Second Street The El Cortez was built in 1931 in anticipation of increased divorce traffic after Reno's divorce law was liberalized in 1931. The residency period for those seeking a divorce in Reno was reduced from three months to six weeks, to boost the already lucrative divorce trade. El Cortez was one of several temporary residential complexes constructed during this time.
Designed by the architectural firm of George Ferris and Son, the El Cortez Hotel is a seven-storied brick and steel structure and one of only three remaining major Art Deco buildings in Reno, and is an excellent example of this style.  The remarkable Art Deco details include the foliated motif and terra cotta ornaments that enliven the ground floor level above the window openings, the main entrance and the steep belt course that separates the second and third stories. At the time it was built, it was Reno's tallest building. The hotel experienced such extensive use early on that an addition was built just a few years after its construction. The hotel included the Orchid Room, a swanky bar and a popular restaurant called the Trocadero Room -- all elegantly appointed with stylish Art Deco ornamentation. The El Cortez was a high-class hotel, garnering an astounding $6 per night, compared to the prevailing room rate of $2.50 per night.
Reno-based architect, George Ferris and his son, Lehman A. "Monk" Ferris, designed this hotel for real estate investor Abe Zetooney. George Ferris' career in Nevada lasted over 30 years. He was educated at Swarthmore College and settled in Reno in 1906, where he opened his own architectural office. He was responsible for the Spanish Quartet of schools, including Mount Rose and McKinley Park, as well as the Governor's Mansion in Carson City, and later in his career he served as the State Architect for the Federal Housing Authority. Ferris formed a partnership with his son Lehman in 1928, which lasted until 1932. Lehman had studied at the University of Nevada and worked with Frederick DeLongchamps before going to work for his father. He was one of the first architects in Nevada to specialize in steel frame construction, served as the City of Reno building inspector, was instrumental in the adoption of a Uniform Building Code, and chairman of the first State Architectural Registration Board in 1947.
15 Reno Masonic Hall/Reno Mercantile Company (1872) 98 W. Commercial Row Built in 1872, it is the oldest extant commercial building in Reno.   The upper story served as the Masonic Hall and the first floor was the Reno Mercantile Company from 1895 to 1970.  This Victorian building, with Romanesque Revival and Italianate elements, represents a type of structure that was common during Reno's nineteenth century past.  It is a 6,600 sf, building with a 3,300 sf unfinished basement.  (Parcel info says built in 1888.)

Currently owned by: Fitzgeralds Reno, Inc. which bought it in 1986 for $26,250,000.
16 Colonial Apartments/
Vintage House/Ross Manor (1907)
118/123 West Street This important historic resource was Reno's first large apartment structure.  It was built in 1907 by owner C.E. Clough, the organizer of Reno's first power company, the first water system in Sparks, and the Reno Press Brick Company.   Its decorative elements include a projecting cornice with brackets and a central entrance with Ionic columns.  The building is 53,628 sf, with 12,860 sf of finished basement, and 1,429 sf of unfinished basement.

Currently owned by: Ross Manor, LLC.
17 First United Methodist Church (1925) 201 W. First Street Built in 1925, it gains its cultural importance as one of Reno's earliest churches (but it is not, by any means, the oldest church in Reno).  The First United Methodist Church was the third Methodist Church to be built in Reno.  It was designed by Wythe, Blaine and Olson, a firm based in Oakland, California. The Period Revival cathedral displays impressive Gothic Revival design elements, utilizing a cross plan, typical of that style. The three-story cathedral was one of the first poured-concrete structures in Reno and the wood grain left by the planks used as molds for the exterior can be seen in the concrete. The church's scale combined with its siting on a corner near the river is dramatic and impressive, making it appear even larger than it is. The parish house and connecting wing were added around 1940, and were designed by prominent local architect, Edward Parsons. The Methodist congregation was established early in Reno's history in 1868 and was organized by Reverend Thomas McGrath.
18 Virginia Street Bridge (1905)   Built in 1905 by Cotton Brothers and Company of Oakland, California, it is the oldest functioning bridge in Reno and one of the first reinforced concrete bridges in Nevada.  There has been a bridge at this site since 1860, when C. W. Fuller constructed the first recorded span of the Truckee River. The bridge has always been a major crossing of the river in downtown Reno and its classical design continues to be a major architectural focal point in Reno. Architect John B. Leonard of San Francisco chose a Beaux Arts design in keeping with the urban setting of the bridge. Leonard's design employed concrete scored to resemble masonry. Other traditional characteristics of masonry construction include the classical arches and the pilasters rising to the level of the ornate iron railing. Above the arches, the bridge is a concrete shell, earth filled to the roadway and sidewalk level. The quality of design and aesthetics make this bridge unusual in Nevada.  When it was built, Reno was a small but thriving transportation hub, with three major railroads. It did not take long following its construction for the bridge to gain a national reputation. From about 1906 until the 1960s, Reno was known as the Divorce Capital of the World, and the Virginia Street Bridge was the main symbol of the trade. Known as "Wedding Ring Bridge," and the "Bridge of Sighs," the Virginia Street Bridge has been the subject of national folklore that continues to the present day. The legend, which goes as far back as the 1920s and maybe earlier, holds that divorcees, upon receiving their final decree from the judge, exited the Washoe County Courthouse, kissed the columns supporting the portico and proceeded post haste past the Riverside Hotel to the Virginia Street Bridge, whence they cast their wedding rings into the Truckee River.
19 Riverside Hotel (1927) 17 S. Virginia Street The first Riverside Hotel was built in 1888 as a wooden structure. The Riverside was sold to Harry Goss, and he gradually replaced the wooden structure with a brick building. In 1922, the Riverside Hotel was completely destroyed by a fire. George Wingfield, one of Nevada's prominent early 20th century financial figures, bought the property in 1924 and, because of its location next to the courthouse, re-built the Riverside Hotel. Wingfield viewed the divorce industry as a potential gold mine and successfully lobbied the Nevada State Legislature in 1926 to reduce the residency requirement from six to three months. During this time he hired Frederic J. DeLongchamps to design the new building. In 1927, Wingfield opened the six-story, Period Revival brick building with Gothic terra cotta detailing. He had it constructed with studio and one bedroom apartments to lodge prospective divorcees, as that year residency requirements were reduced from six months to three months. (In 1931 the residency requirement was reduced to six weeks.) DeLongchamps had the bricks laid in a common bond on most of the building with a herringbone pattern on the sides to create interest. The pointed arched windows on the sixth floor, stacked bay windows embellished with a gothic diamond and flower design, decorated panels on the crown, and traceried parapets give the building a Gothic character. In 1950, DeLongchamps was hired for the remodel, which added a three-story wing to the rear, a pool, and bricked the front windows to expand the casino floor. The Riverside closed in the early 1980's and was vacant until Sierra Arts and Arts Space teamed up to purchase the building in 1997. This group demolished the 1950's additions, removed the bricked-up storefront window spaces, and converted all the hotel rooms into artists' lofts. The building now totals 59,280 sf with 9,880 of unfinished basement.

Currently owned by: Riverside Artist Lofts LP
20 Reno Downtown
Post Office (1934)
50 S. Virginia Street

Get better photo.
The land for the post office was acquired in 1931 from Katherine Kincart Caughlin, Riverside Realty Company, and the Board of Washoe County Commissioners. A portion of the site was occupied by a Carnegie Library, demolished to make way for the post office.

Designed by Frederic J. DeLongchamps and opened in 1934, this building is one of the best Art Deco designs, specifically Zig-Zag Moderne, in Nevada.  Although standard building plans had been developed for post offices, commissioned architects were allowed, where practicable, to give individual treatment to the exterior details. DeLongchamps achieved this with exceptional skill and artistry.  The light green terra-cotta tiles on the exterior were patterned to resemble quarried stone and the vertical fluted terra-cotta tiles were made to imply pilasters elongating the first and second floor windows. The first-floor lobby has spectacular, highly ornamented dark marble walls highlighted with cast aluminum.  Notice the Greek key fretwork band between the second and third floors and the dark green terra cotta tiles in-between the first and second floor windows with an Art Deco sunburst design. DeLongchamps also incorporated the Bald Eagle symbol, which flanks the crown, denoting the building as a federal structure. The aluminum windows, screens and doorways give the building a modern look while the aluminum panels over the interior entrances salute transportation with the airplane on the left and Mercury on the right. The interior continues in the art deco style with the geometric aluminum moldings containing patriotic and Indian motifs. Aluminum medallions with the Stars and Stripes symbol are inset on to the black marbled walls. The original black marble and aluminum writing tables are still there as well as a portion of the original post office boxes.  Until the area was enclosed in order to house the HVAC units, the central portion of the ceiling was a large skylight. A fourth floor was originally planned but never built. The two upper floors of offices opened onto the open area created by the skylight. MacDonald Engineering constructed the building, with the assistance of the Civil Works Administration (CWA), one of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs. The post office building also housed a variety of Federal agencies, including the weather bureau in the penthouse on the roof.

The Reno Redevelopment Agency now plans to turn most of the interior of the building into retail space and to convert the space between the building and the Truckee River into a large water-oriented plaza.  The U.S. Postal Service will still occupy a portion of the building.
21 Pioneer Center (1967) 100 S. Virginia Street The 66,000 sf Pioneer Center is significant because of its unique Populuxe architecture exemplified in its geodesic dome.  The land was given to Reno by Myron C. Lake under the condition that whatever was erected there must serve the public.  The dome encompassing the front of the building is the first of its kind to have aprons over the windows.  According to Wikipedia, Populuxe architecture was also known as "doo wop" or "Googie", and was characterized by space-age designs that depict motion, such as boomerangs, flying saucers, atoms and parabolas. The Space Needle, built for Seattle's 1962 World's Fair, is another example of these forms of futuristic architecture.
22 Washoe County Court House (1909) 117 S. Virginia Street
(75 Court Street)
Washoe County was established in 1861 as one of the original nine counties in the Nevada territory.  Myron Lake, who owned the toll bridge that crossed the banks of the Truckee River, donated land in 1871 for the first Reno courthouse, in anticipation of Reno wresting county seat status from Washoe City, some 20 miles to the south. The original Reno courthouse, built of red brick in 1871-1873, still stands as an internal component of the building we see today. So this Washoe County Court House is the third court house for the county and the second on this site.  In 1909, Frederic DeLongchamps won the design competition for the new courthouse, the first solo commission of his career. The new, enlarged court house design was in the Classical Revival style showing Beaux Arts influence featuring decorative elements in terra cotta. DeLongchamps used six strong Corinthian columns and an ornate entablature to support the matching central Corinthian portico which rests on a rough-cut granite foundation. Wide Doric pilasters flank the windows on the first floor and square moldings with keystones surround the second story windows.  The pair of metal paneled doors lead to the interior of stately gray marble wainscot, pilasters with black marble bases, multi-colored tiled floor, and ornate balustrades. The large pedimented dormered dome that crowns the courthouse has copper ribs that end in fanciful brackets.  The second floor ceiling has colored leaded glass that is illuminated by the light from the dome above.  There is an American mural by Robert Caples at the main entrance and two Hans Meyer-Kassel oils under the stained glass dome on the second floor.  DeLongchamps would be commissioned three more times for additions to the courthouse. The first two were in the 1946 and 1949 to design matching wings, and the third was in 1963 to add the five story modernist styled structure on the rear of the courthouse.  The court house now is now 116,011 sf with a 33,445 sf unfinished basement.

During the 1930s, when divorce was the primary industry for Reno, nearly 33,000 divorces were granted in these courtrooms. Famous Life Magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstadt took a photograph of a young woman kissing one of these pillars. The posed picture appeared on the front cover of the June 21, 1937, edition of Life.  Courtroom No. 1, the scene of action during Reno's divorce heyday, underwent a recent restoration, along with the dome, and some structural stabilization were all funded with grants from the National Park Service's Historic Preservation Fund.
23 Nortonia Boarding House (1900) 150 Ridge Street Built in 1900, this is one of the best remaining examples of the Queen Anne style in Reno.  The porch roof, supported by narrow Doric columns, forms a balcony with a balustrade topped by small wooden balls.  This 3,260 sf building is associated with the boarding house phenomenon that existed in Reno in the early 1900s.

Currently owned by: Peter and Renate Neumann
24 George Wingfield Mansion (1907) 219 Court Street   A Classical Revival home built in 1907 for the famous Wingfield, who was a state political power as well as a leading figure in mining, banking, industrial and commercial development during the early 20th century.  A dominant feature of the house is a one-story porch that encircles three sides.  Paired Doric/Tuscan columns support the textured frieze and cornice.

The Wingfield Mansion was owned by John and Sonnia Iliescu, who purchased it in 1980 for $761,500.  It burned down in 2001.
25 Trinity Episcopal Church (1930) 200 Island Ave. Frederic J. DeLongchamps drew four different architectural plans for this church between 1927 and 1930. The church chose the Gothic Revival over the Colonial, Spanish, and Romanesque Revival designs. The 8,096 sf Trinity Church was built in 1930 out of cast concrete with buttresses, steep spires, and narrowly pointed arched windows. The original exterior staircase descended in a straight path down to Island Avenue, but rumor has it that it was split after a runaway casket incident at some point in the church's history.
26 Frisch House (1907) 247 Court Street This home, built in 1907, housed the large Frisch Family.  One of the sons, Roy J. Frisch, was a bank cashier who had agreed to give state's evidence in a federal mail fraud case involving the Wingfield-owned Riverside Bank.   Frisch disappeared less than a block from his home in 1934 on his way home from the movies.  He was never seen again, and rumors of foul play persist because "Baby Face" Nelson was in the area on the date he disappeared.  The 3,091 sf  residence with a 1,839 sf finished basement features exemplary columns, asymmetrical dormers and a rusticated base.

Currently owned by: Theresa Frisch
27 Lake Mansion (1877) 250 Court Street The Lake Mansion, built in 1877 by W.J. Marsh was sold to Myron Lake in 1879. Lake is often considered the founder of Reno because his toll bridge across the Truckee prompted the early settlement to be called "Lake's Crossing." The 3,206 sf Lake Mansion was originally located near the river crossing at Virginia and California Streets. It is an ornate example of the Italianate style with a hipped roof and veranda banding the house; it typifies upper middle class prosperity during the period. Well-detailed brackets, window frames, doors and balustrades testify to the quality craftsmanship which went into the structure's construction. Among the impressive details of the Lake Mansion are the etched glass of the doorway, the period furnishings, and the carved woodwork over the sliding doors in the front parlor.  The Lake Mansion which was threatened with demolition and moved in 1971 to the corner of Kietzke Lane and Virginia Street (near the Reno-Sparks Convention Center). According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, "old friends are worth keeping" -- thanks to several grant awards, on July 11, 2004 the "most moving event of Artown" took place in Reno when the 40-ton mansion was moved 3.1 miles back up Virginia Street. to downtown Reno to its current location.

Currently owned by: City of Reno
27 Gibbons/Patrick McCarran House (1913) 401 Court Street Frederic J. DeLongchamps designed this elegant Colonial Revival mansion in 1913 for Lewis A. Gibbons, a political figure of importance and affluence in Reno and Tonopah.  Gibbons died in this house on February 19th, 1920.  Patrick A. McCarran who served Nevada as U.S. Senator from 1933 to 1954 was its next owner.  The two-story plaster house has a wide stringcourse between the two stories and a molded cornice with a Greek key frieze that rests below the roofline. Double Doric columns frame the entrance. It is believed the DeLongchamps mimicked this frieze in his design of the downtown post office. The main door is very distinctive with its molded panels.  The sidelights are framed by pilasters and topped with a segmented pediment. The rear of the house has a large recessed veranda with 4 pairs of Doric columns and a second story balcony which overlooks both Barbara Bennett and Wingfield Parks, as well as the Truckee River. The house is 4,289 sf with a 2,152 sf finished basement.

Never, ever, ever did Mary Pickford step foot in this house, even though all of Reno seems to know this as "the Mary Pickford House." In a story published on December 11, 1937, the Saturday Evening Post declared, "Mary Pickford gave Reno its best ad when she established residence and bought a house there in 1920 to divorce Owen Moore. When she left she gave the house to her lawyer. It is the home today of United States Senator Pat McCarran. He was her lawyer." Many people think that Mary Pickford had this house built so that she could live in it while she awaited her divorce decree.  Guy Rocha dispels this notion in Myth #49 in which he includes the text of a letter to the editor of the Saturday Evening Post, written by Patrick McCarran, in which he states:
". . . Mary Pickford never lived in Reno.  Mary Pickford never owned nor possessed a house in Reno. Mary Pickford never secured a decree of divorce, nor did she ever apply for a decree of divorce in Reno. Mary Pickford did not give her lawyer her house or any other house located either in Reno or any other place in Nevada . . ."

McCarran, a former Nevada Supreme Court judge, secured Mary Pickford's divorce from Owen Moore on March 2nd of 1920 in Douglas County, two weeks after her arrival in Nevada on February 15, 1920 so that she could marry Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. 26 days later on March 28th, 1920.  Since McCarran purchased this house for $35,000 two months after Mary Pickford's divorce decree, it is assumed that his attorney fees from the controversial divorce helped purchase this imposing residence.  One of McCarran's mistakes was to represent George Wingfield's estranged wife in their divorce proceedings.

Currently owned by: I H Properties LLC who purchased it in 2004 for $1,250,000
28Thomas Cooke House (1910)

421 Court Street

This house was the family home and office of Thomas Cooke who was very active in historic preservation as a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the TRPA, the Comstock Historic Commission, and worked to save the 4th Ward School in Virginia City.  The 3,694 sf house has come Classical details, with fluted Doric columns, pilasters, and sidelights.  It has 6 bedrooms and 5 baths. 

Currently owned by: Martha Cooke
29435 Court Street (1910)435 Court Street 2,941sf

Currently owned by: Linda Beasley
30Joseph Grey House (1911)457 Court Street The 3,441 sf Joseph Grey House design integrates Colonial Revival Style ornamentation with massing associated with Queen Anne design.  The principal entrance to the structure is marked by a slightly projecting pediment porch supported by paired, Tuscan columns.  Joseph Grey was the president of the Grey Reid Department store.

Currently owned by: Satre Gray Mansion LLC who purchased it in 2007 for $1,030,000
31 Former residence of Holy Cross Nuns (1906)491 Court Street Not listed in APN database.  This was once the residence of the Holy Cross nuns, then it was owned by attorney Pete Etcheverria, and then it was owned by the Filkinses who made wine in the basement until they sold it in 2002.  There is a cross on the roof, a date in the sidewalk, a chapel in the front, and river rock is used as one of the building materials.

Currently owned by: ???????????
Hosea Reid House (1920)
515 Court Street (ca.1920) Hosea Reid came west in 1884 to be a dentist in San Francisco, then later moved to Sacramento, and then to Nevada where he was a founding partner of the Grey Reid department store, along with his neighbor, Joseph Grey. The 4,516 sf massive brick house in a low plan with an arch entrance and a 2,258sf finished basement.

Currently owned by: John Ludwig and Ron Headman who purchased it in 1998 for $550.000
33 Hawkins House 549 Court Street Prince A. Hawkins commissioned prominent Los Angeles architect Elmer Grey, to build his Colonial Revival home in 1911. Grey also designed the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Huntington Library, the Pasadena Playhouse, and other notable buildings in the far West. Grey's plan for the Hawkins House evoked traditional forms, with a brick exterior and a commodious, central floor plan. The Georgian style, white wood trim and Ionic columns enhance the elegant front entry on the traditional red brick structure. The 6,110 sf house with a 1,300 sf finished basement had modern heating and plumbing systems, a vast kitchen complex and a third floor servants' area. The Hawkins House is situated on the bluff above the Truckee River, near the home of Senator Francis G. Newlands. It was one of the first homes built in the fashionable Newlands Heights area. Today it contains many historic mansions and homes. The majority of the residences were erected between 1920 and 1940. The diversity of architectural styles in the Newlands neighborhood makes it a record of early 20th-century architectural history, with styles ranging from large Colonial Revival residences, such as the Hawkins House, and French Chateau mansions, to more modest Spanish Colonial and Craftsman bungalows.

The Hawkins family was considered one of the first families of Nevada, prominent in Nevada's business and banking circles for over a century and the house was passed down to later generations..  The Hawkins family has been  known for its contributions to art, science and music.   Prince Hawkin's son, Robert Ziemer Hawkins married Katherine Mackay, the granddaughter of John Mackay of Comstock mining fame.  She made her own unique contributions to the history of the home, bringing from Paris the contents of her grandfather's apartments which included, in addition to the period furniture, the handscreened 19th century wallpaper, sections of which remain on the second floor interior walls.  Attorney Prince Z. Hawkins and his family owned the property until it was purchased by the Sierra Nevada Museum of Art in 1978. No major alterations have been made to the Hawkins House. The Hawkins House received the city's first Historical Landmark status, it was entered on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, and the State Register of Historic Places in 1981.

Currently owned by: Dan and Melinda Gustin who purchased it in 1998 and who also own the Newlands Mansion.
34Francis Newlands' Office (1890)1 Elm Court (ca.1890)
4 bedrooms, 3 baths, 3,006 sf.  Parcel data says it was built in 1906.

Currently owned by: Peter and Renate Neumann

35 DeLongchamps Residence (1919) 4 Elm Court DeLongchamps built this English style cottage as his honeymoon cottage in 1919. He married his second wife, Rosemary here and they resided in this one-bedroom home until the 1940's. This charming 1,198 square foot house of random ashlar construction is made from local stone with an arched front doorway and an eyebrow styled hipped roofline over the second story balcony. The bedroom consists of the entire second floor with the kitchen, living room and dining room on the first floor. The garage has recently been converted into a two-roomed studio.  1 bedroom, 1 bath, with 225 sf unfinished basement.

Currently owned by: Lou Melton who purchased it in 2007 for $400,000.

36 Newlands Mansion (1889) 7 Elm Court More easily viewed from Riverside Drive, the Newlands Mansion was the first residence built along the bluff overlooking the Truckee River, and the area grew into a fashionable neighborhood known as Newlands Heights. The residence of Francis W. Newlands, who was elected to the House of Representatives in 1892, and in 1903 he was elected to the Senate. He served as a senator until his death in 1917. Newlands purchased 200 acres on the bluff from Jane Lake (former wife of Myron Lake). The house  was built in 1889 (architect unknown) with the front wing and arbor added sometime before 1908.  The Shingle style mansion contains numerous Queen Anne attributes including the random horizontal plan with wings, bays, porches and a distinctive steep gable roof with a ridge running northeast to southwest. It is covered primarily with asphalt shingle. The 6,861 sf house is 2 1/2 stories, has 9 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms. There are a total of 87 large windows in the mansion designed to bring in light and to take advantage of the spectacular view of the Truckee River.

Before moving to Reno, Newlands was the general counsel, close friend, and confidant for the mining interests of Senator William Sharon who was a Comstock silver baron in Virginia City and later married his daughter. Together Francis and Clara had 3 daughters, but Clara Sharon Newlands died in childbirth in 1882. After William Sharon’s death in 1885, Newlands came to Nevada to manage Sharon’s vast holdings, and also to establish a his future in state politics.  When Sharon died, he had no (legal) heirs, thus, Newlands was left in charge of the entire Sharon estate. Money that would be used to establish many successful water conservation projects throughout the state. In 1888, Newlands married Edith McAllister, the daughter of the dean of the San Francisco Bar who was 12 years his junior. They moved to Reno and built this house that soon became a social gathering place for the prominent men and women not only in Nevada, but also in Washington, D.C.  Francis G. Newlands grew in prominence for his notable accomplishments in the West as the primary  author of the 1902 Water Reclamation Act. The Reclamation Act sought to promote agriculture in the arid west through the construction of large-scale irrigation projects. The first project under the Reclamation Act was the Newlands Irrigation Project in Nevada's Lahontan Valley which created the Rye Patch Dam and the Lahontan Reservoir. Another Newlands Water Project raised the level of Donner Lake.  He was very popular personally and politically. Because of Newlands' prominence in politics, water and reclamation projects in the West and as the developer of Chevy Chase, Maryland, this property is a National Historic Landmark, the highest designation of national significance and one of only six houses designated as such in Nevada.

When Newlands died in 1917, the house was purchased by George Thatcher, the prominent local attorney for George Wingfield. Thatcher was a well-known and successful divorce lawyer, who occasionally let his prominent clients reside in his home. This was the case when Woolworth dime store heiress Barbara Hutton came to Reno for a divorce in 1935. It was held in trust for Mrs. George Thatcher until 1979 when the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Endangered Properties Fund purchased it to protect it from being altered or demolished. Some of the restoration has been paid for by grants for historical properties. The house was purchased in 1984 by city councilman Dan Gustin and his wife, Melinda, who used to own "My Favorite Muffin" and who are continuing the restoration of the property and landscaping of the home. The house was one of four featured on Bob Vila's TV program Restore America in April 2000. The Gustins have been honored with the City of Reno Preservation Award.
37Forest Eccles House (1920)245 Lee Avenue
Designed in 1920 by Frederic J. DeLongchamps in the Mediterranean style for Forest Eccles whose family founded the Reno Grocer Company and the Reno Furniture Company. This house has 4 bedrooms and 4.5 baths.  It is 3,408 sf with a 1,584 sf unfinished basement.

Currently owned by: Doug Schuster.
38Edward Chism House (1927)575 Ridge Street
Designed in 1927 by Frederic J. DeLongchamps for Edward Chism of the Chism Dairy and Ice Cream Company, this house has 4 bedrooms and 2.5 baths. It is 3,548 sf, with a 1,287 sf unfinished basement. It has an arched entrance, half timbering, and a hidden porch.

Currently owned by: Mercedes De La Garza and Scott Gibson, who purchased it in 2002 for $599,000.
39 West/Bart Hood Mansion (1921) 599 Ridge Street Might be called the "medical mansion".  Designed by Edward Parsons as an addition to the original Nixon mansion stables, this house was built in 1921 for Dr. Claudius W. West. West put medical shields on the concrete flower boxes in front of the house. It was acquired by Dr. A.J. "Bart" Hood in the early 1930s when Hood added a "children's wing".  At that time, the 5,641 sf Hood Mansion had 7 bedrooms and 8 bathrooms.  The house's horizontal plan, tile roof and arched windows are typical of the Mediterranean style.   Hood was a descendent of the state's first doctor and his wife was an heiress to the Woolworth and Charlton fortunes.  In 1935, Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton married her second of seven husbands,  Count Kurt von Haugwitz-Reventlow, in front of the fireplace in this house. Barbara Hutton was later married to Cary Grant for 3 years, between 1942-1945. Most of her other husbands were royalty.

Currently owned by: Harry and Carla Hart who bought it in 1994 for $950,000

The information for this bike tour was excerpted from various sources:

Last updated: 7/05/08