Five Reno landmarks lost over the years
The Nevada Traveler
Every community loses certain distinctive buildings or places in the name of progress.
In some cases, the losses are remembered for decades after — such as the original Penn Station in New York or San Francisco’s Fox Theatre — while others simply drift off into distant memory.
Not surprisingly, Reno has had its share of lost historical or architectural treasures over the years, including these five:
Perhaps the most acrimonious battle was the fight between city officials and preservationists over the fate of the Mapes Hotel. Built in 1947, the Art Deco Mapes was the first major high-rise built in the U.S. after World War II. The tallest building in the state at the time of its opening, the Mapes was a precursor to the modern Nevada hotel-casino offering not only gaming but also hotel rooms, restaurants, bars, entertainment, and even a hair salon in the same building. After the hotel experienced financial problems and closed in 1982, it sat vacant for 18 years as a succession of owners failed to do anything with it. In 2000, the city of Reno, which had acquired it in 1996, imploded the downtown building. It was the first building on the National Register of Historic Places to be demolished since 1949.
Another landmark that met its fate at the end of a bulldozer blade was the venerable Moana Hot Springs. Opened in 1905 on a site with ample natural hot springs, the Moana Springs Resort included a large bath house with a spring-fed pool, a hotel, clubhouse, baseball diamond, and picnic grounds. In 1910, the resort served as the training camp for former heavyweight boxer Jim Jeffries in advance of his bout with Jack Johnson (the so-called Fight of the Century). In 1956, the city of Reno acquired the site and demolished all of the original buildings. A recreational complex, with indoor swimming pool, built in 1960 was itself demolished in 2012 and replaced by municipal sports fields and a gravel lot where the pool and bath house once stood. The city is currently considering plans to develop an aquatic center on the site.
For a period of about 15 years, Reno had two electric trolley systems. From 1904 to about 1920, the Reno Traction Company or RTC (originally named the Nevada Transit Company) and the Nevada Interurban Trolley (NIT) transported passengers east to Sparks and south to the Moana Springs resort. The RTC ran from downtown Reno’s railroad station to the Southern Pacific Railroad roundhouse in Sparks. The line was later expanded to the university. The NIT line, which started up in about 1907, ran from the downtown to Moana resort. Both lines discontinued service as a result of the increasing popularity and availability of personal automobiles.
A memorable part of Reno’s past of a different sort that has been lost was the legendary Harolds Club Roaring Camp Gun Collection. Housed in the casino’s Roaring Camp Room, the collection contained more than antique 3,000 guns, with about 2,000 on public display. The firearms were originally acquired by Raymond Staff, a man described as an entrepreneur, who, after running into financial trouble, sold them to Harolds Club owner Raymond I. “Pappy” Smith. From the late 1940s to the early 1990s, the collection was a popular attraction for visitors to Reno. Items in the collection includes weapons owned by western frontiersmen John C. Fremont and Kit Carson, pistols used for famous duels, a model of every Colt manufactured from 1836 to 1902, and revolvers allegedly once owned by Jesse James. After Harolds Club was acquired by the Fitzgerald Group in 1993, the Roaring Camp Room was closed and the collection was auctioned off.
In the early 20th century, the city of Reno built four public schools that have become known as the Spanish Quartet or Spanish Sisters. The four were built in a distinctive Mission Revival style with stucco siding and red tile roofs. The first built was McKinley Park School, erected in 1909, followed by the Orvis Ring School (1910), the Mary S. Doten School (1912) and Mount Rose School (1912). Designed by noted Reno architect George Ferris, the schools served the community well until the 1970s, when community leaders decided they had outlived their usefulness. After the Doten school was demolished in 1974, followed by Ring in 1986, local preservationists successfully fought to save the other two schools, which remain standing and in use.
For information about Reno’s rich architectural history, go to: http://renohistorical.org/.