Historic Glendale School
While not much remains of the old Truckee Meadows community of Glendale (now part of the city of Sparks near McCarran Boulevard and the Truckee River), the one-room schoolhouse that was once an integral part of the town can still be visited.
The Glendale School, often called the oldest schoolhouse in the state, was erected in 1864. In addition to being the oldest school, it also has the distinction of having been used as a school longer than any other building in Nevada (until 1958).
Among its alumni is U.S. Senator Pat McCarran, who served in the Senate from 1933 to 1954.
Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, the school is a gabled, one-story wooden structure that was the first educational institution in the Truckee Meadows. According to the nomination form, the school, which cost $1,466, opened in April 1864 and attracted four students.
In addition to being used for classes, the building also served as an early community center, hosting dances, meetings and other social functions. At the time the school closed in the 1950s it only had 18 students.
Interestingly, the school was built before the town of Glendale had been established. Prior to 1866, the area was known as Stone and Gates Crossing.
The crossing traces its beginnings to 1857, when a trading post was erected to serve emigrants crossing Nevada to reach California. In 1860, a bridge was built over the Truckee River at the site and a small settlement formed.
By 1866, when the settlement changed its name to Glendale, it had grown to include couple of stores, a blacksmith shop, several saloons, a small hotel, and, of course, the school.
In 1868, Glendale residents thought that the Central Pacific Railroad might locate its main facilities in their hamlet. Their hopes were dashed, however, when the railroad’s surveyors showed up immediately after the Truckee had overflowed its banks and found water in many of the buildings.
Instead, the railroad chose to establish the town of Reno as the site of its operations and by 1869 many of Glendale’s businesses relocated to the newer community.
In 1976, the abandoned school building was moved from its original location to a site adjacent to the Reno-Sparks Convention Center at the south end of Reno. There it remained (adjacent to the relocated Lake Mansion) until 1993, when it was relocated to the Victorian Square district in downtown Sparks.
The school building, which has been restored to its early 20th century appearance, is open for tours (check with the Sparks Heritage Museum, http://sparksmuseum.org/, for times) and is part of the Sparks Heritage Museum and Bicentennial Park complex at the east end of Victorian Square. The museum and park celebrate Sparks’ rich railroad history.
Adjacent to the Glendale School is Locomotive No. 8, built in 1907 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works. The ten-wheeler was one of the last steam engines to operate on the Southern Pacific line and was retired in 1954.
Attached to the engine are two historic Southern Pacific train cars, including a 1911 Pullman Car, said to have been used in 1948 by President Harry Truman on the successful whistle-stop campaign that helped get him reelected.
The park also includes a replica of the original Sparks train depot (it’s about 25-percent smaller than the original), which was built in 1975 from the original plans. The city of Sparks events department currently uses the building.
The city of Sparks was established in 1905, following relocation of the Southern Pacific Railroad’s main division point from Wadsworth to Sparks. The railroad rerouted its tracks along the eastern Truckee River corridor to eliminate several dangerous curves and grades.
The railroad originally looked at Reno for its new shops, but went east because of cheaper land. A passenger station and freight yard opened in 1905.
The town began to develop around the railroad’s facilities. Many railroad employees who had worked in Wadsworth were sold lots in the new community and moved their homes to Sparks.
The new town was originally called “East Reno” for a short time, then “Harriman,” after E.H. Harriman, owner of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Finally, in April 1904, Harriman decided to name the community in honor of Nevada’s popular Governor John Sparks.
An excellent walking tour of Sparks is available as a mobile phone or tablet application, downloadable for Apple or Android devices. To access it, go to the app store and look for “Sparks, NV Historic Tours.” There is no cost for the app.
Rich Moreno covers the places and people that make Nevada special.