Exploring Reno’s historic places | NevadaAppeal.com

Exploring Reno’s historic places

The historic Riverside Hotel, built in 1927 on the site of the Lake House, one of Reno’s first structures.
Photo by Richard Moreno |

The recent announcement that the University of Nevada Reno plans to remove six century-old houses between Virginia and Evans streets for future expansion is a reminder that historic structures aren’t always cherished or preserved.

While the fate of those six homes is still to be decided, there are a number of other reminders of old Reno that can still be seen in the Biggest Little City in the World.

In fact, the city of Reno has created a nice brochure that serves as an excellent guide to these remnants of the place that writer Walter Van Tilburg Clark once called, the “City of Trembling Leaves.”

Called the “Historic Reno Walking Map,” a pdf of the brochure that can be downloaded is available online at http://www.reno.gov/home/showdocument?id=26284.

The brochure, which includes a detailed map of downtown Reno, the location of most of these structures, also offers a good way to gain an appreciation of the city’s architectural history.

The walking tour stops begin with the former Nevada-California-Oregon Railroad Depot at 325 East Fourth. This impressive 1910 brick edifice was designed by legendary Reno architect Frederick J. Delongchamps. Adjacent are the former N-C-O locomotive house, built in 1899 and the oldest engine house in the state.

Next up are the sites of the former Southern Pacific Railroad freight house, railway express and Union Pacific Amtrak Depot on Commercial Row near Center Street. The stucco structure, which has been lovingly restored in recent years, is one of downtown Reno’s few Mission-style buildings.

The former Reno Masonic Hall, on the corner of Commercial Row and Sierra Street, has the distinction of being the city’s oldest standing commercial structure. From 1895 to 1970, the upper floor served as the Mason’s hall while the bottom floor was the Reno Mercantile (it later served as a pawn shop).

About a half-block away on Virginia Street near Second Street is the former site of Jacob Davis’ tailor shop. It was in a tiny shop that once stood there that Davis invented the now-famous Levi-brand blue jeans in 1870. A plaque marks the spot.

Across Virginia Street and a little south is the former Reno National Bank building on the corner of South Virginia and Second streets. The elaborate, columned building was erected in 1915 by powerful Reno businessman George Wingfield and served as his main offices for many years.

From there, the tour heads east to the site of the Santa Fe Hotel and Restaurant and Louis’ Basque Corner Restaurant. Both are longtime Reno eateries (and former hotels) that serve boardinghouse-style Basque meals.

The walking tour doubles back south on Virginia Street to the Riverside Hotel, perhaps Reno’s most storied and historic location. The site was once the location of Charles William Fuller’s toll bridge and primitive log trading post and hotel, which he traded to Myron Lake in mid-1861.

Lake built up the operation, adding a larger inn that he called the Lake House, and constructing a new toll bridge. Lake named the area “Lake’s Crossing,” and it eventually became the city of Reno.

In 1927, the current Riverside Hotel structure was built on the site of the former Lake House. The imposing brick building was designed by DeLongchamps to cater to Reno’s then-thriving divorce trade. For many years it was owned by Wingfield. It served as a hotel and casino until 1987, when it closed. In 2000, it was renovated and converted into artist lofts and commercial space.

More on Reno’s historic walking tour next week.

Rich Moreno covers the places and people that make Nevadans love to visit.