150 years of Reno

A year by year look at the city’s history

A 1913 postcard scene looks south on Center Street from Second Street toward the river, before the construction of the bridge.

A 1913 postcard scene looks south on Center Street from Second Street toward the river, before the construction of the bridge.

For more on Reno’s history, see Reno’s Big Gamble by Alicia Barber, available in local libraries and most local bookstores.

Last Saturday, our colleagues across town at the Reno Gazette Journal honored Reno by making the theme of their annual charity Fantasies in Chocolate gala “A Salute to 150 Years in the Biggest Little City.”

Our first article on Reno’s sesquicentennial dealt with events city officialdom would rather forget. We expect to run a third piece on city government policies and their role in city history.

This week, we take a lighter approach, reporting some of the little-known events in city history, and the Gazette Journal plays occasional roles. Readers will not find many benchmarks here, like breaking news or big disasters, though there are tragedies. Instead, we tried to give a sense of what life was like in the Truckee Meadows—good and bad—for its people.

This is an unlikely possibility, given the terrific population turnover in Nevada that leaves us with less than 20 percent native born, but we hope that people will find links to their past.

1868 The Union Pacific Railroad, after establishing a station, divided the area into streets and auctioned off 400 lots, creating a city.

1869 A California newspaper reported, “RENO - This place has, by its position on the Railroad, drawn almost the entire trade of Honey Lake Valley from Oroville and other points in the Sacramento Valley.”

1870 Western Nevada was hit with an earthquake, and although felt in Reno, the Reno Crescent reported that “the shock was far heavier at and about Glen Dale.”

1871 The First Congregational Church was organized in Reno.

1872 The Washoe County grand jury praised District Attorney W. M. Boardman for ignoring an order by the county commission to drop a tax lawsuit against the scofflaw Central Pacific Railroad corporation.

1873 A patent application filed by Reno tailor Jacob Davis—the application fee paid by Levi Strauss—on Davis’s copper-riveted dungarees was approved, the patent granted.

1874 Reno’s Nevada State Journal went daily after three years as a weekly.

1875 Commenting on the discriminatory rates imposed by the unregulated Central Pacific Railroad on some Western communities, the Journal commented, “Had they pursued a liberal policy toward the people of Nevada they would be blessed to-day, instead of cursed, as they are.”

1876 A theatrical manager brought his touring company to Reno, ran up bills, then vanished with the receipts, and the company players said they would go ahead with a performance in hope of satisfying all the claims.

1877 The Reno Gazette argued that the strawberry festival for the benefit of the library, which was organized by local “ladies,” had gone so well it proved that women were competent.

1878 A few days after a Native American was murdered in Reno, a procession of tribal family and friends passed through Reno to the Hillside Cemetery where the body of the victim was exhumed, removed from its coffin, and then reburied as part of tribal rites.

1879 Gazette: “The only remaining child of Mr. And Mrs. Van Meter died this morning after an illness of thirty-seven days. This makes the third child Mr. and Mrs. Van Meter have lost by the dreaded scourge, scarlet fever. The funeral sermon will be preached at the family residence on the Truckee Meadows to-morrow morning at 11 o’clock, after which the little one will be brought to town and laid away with its brother and sister.”

1880 McClelland and Simpson of Reno shipped some Truckee trout to the famed Fulton Fish Market in New York.

1881 Scientific American reported on the annual Fulton Fish Market trout exhibition in New York, saying that certain specimens were “specially worthy of notice … Truckee river trout, a large black spotted fish which grows from six to ten pounds in weight. Lake Tahoe trout, also a black spotted fish, but much larger than the Truckee river trout.”

1882 The first state mental hospital in Nevada, now the Nevada Mental Health Institute, built along the Truckee east of Reno at a cost of $80,000 ($2,062,769.75 in 2017 dollars), was completed.

1883 Gazette: “The class of immigrants now coming west are not as thrifty and intelligent as men and women should be to settle up and make prosperous a new country. From 100 to 200 men, women and children pass Reno every night … too many of them are from the lower classes of foreign depression: They come here believing that any change is better than no change.”

1884 Nevada’s only university was moved from Elko to Reno, although the first building was not finished until 1885.

1885 The Nevada and Oregon Railroad, headquartered in Reno, was sold in foreclosure to the Moran Brothers, an investment group.

1886 Journal: “PRINTERS B B CLUB —Last evening the Reno Prints formed a Base Ball Club and will challenge the ’Dudes’ for a friendly game next Sunday.”

1887 U.S. infantry soldiers stopped in Reno on their way from service in the Pine Ridge/Wounded Knee campaign to return to their duty stations in San Francisco.

1888 U.S. Postmaster General Don Dickinson wired a Nevada official that traffic at the Reno post office had increased to such an extent that it was being boosted from a third class to a second class post office.

1889 Reno was digging out after 36 hours of snow and rain.

1890 After the Reno newspapers reported that a thousand head of cattle in Elko County had frozen to death, Winnemucca’s Silver State reported that no such thing had happened.

1891 Gazette: “The Congregational church held a picnic to-day at Merrill’s Grove, across the river from Verdi. Two car loads of picnickers left this morning, attached to the swing train.”

1892 At McKissick’s Opera House in Reno, a dozen Washo tribe members performed “the celebrated snake dance.”

1893 Millie Sophia Chalmers, age one year, four months, died in Reno and was buried at Hillside Cemetery.

1894 Reno residents voted on whether to purchase Block K on Second Street in Powning’s Addition for a schoolhouse, the land purchase to cost $5,000, and voted no.

1895 National Suffrage Association officers Anna Howard Shaw and Susan B. Anthony spoke at McKissick’s Opera House in Reno.

1896 Reno’s Tribune reported that Nevada State University students wanted the school’s “colors changed from blue and silver to something else.”

1897 Nevada sheepman William O’Brien, seriously injured by a gunshot wound in the head, said his mistress Orena Loek accidentally shot him in the room in the Tremont Hotel in Reno where they had been living.

1898 Nevada State University began an athletics program, its players usually known as Sagebrushers.

1899 Nevada State University President J.E. Stubbs reported to the Regents that there were more women students at the beginning of the year—45—than the women’s cottage could contain, and so he had rented “two rooms in a private house for the use of some of our girls.”

1900 The New York Times carried an item about Reno artist J.B. Schweitzer, whose uncle John Bryan Griffith died in India and left him $500,000 ($14,944,288.80 in 2017 dollars).

1901 The Washoe County Commission, which also served as the Reno Town Board, voted to connect the University of Nevada to the city sewer system.

1902 Civil War veteran Henry Shanks, of company I of the 35th Wisconsin Infantry, died in Reno and was buried in the Grand Army of the Republic plot of Hillside Cemetery.

1903 The Nevada Assembly approved an amended version of Assemblymember H.R. Cooke’s Reno incorporation bill, already passed by the senate.

1904 It was announced that the “co-eds” at the state university would get to edit one issue of the Student Record (forerunner of Sagebrush).

1905 Carson City newspapers were agitating for removal of the university from Reno to Carson.

1906 Catholic officials purchased the Sol Levy home at Second and Chestnut, now Arlington, streets in Reno for $10,000 ($276,869.14 in 2017 dollars) to be the site of a church, possibly a cathedral.

1907 Reno train engineer H.C. Hampton, making his last run after promising his family that he would leave the railroad, was killed in a train wreck at Lovelock in which freight and passenger trains collided.

1908 Reno’s city government considered installing clocks on the city hall tower.

1909 The San Francisco Aero Club planned a balloon race between Berkeley and Reno.

1910 A funeral was held in Reno for James Howard Leason of Schurz: “The death of the young lad, who would have been 13 years of age had he lived until April 10, has been … a hard blow to his mother, who worshipped him. … He was the idol of Schurz folk, few of Schurz’s population being white. The Indians loved the child, who was wise beyond his years. And, when the parents left with his body for Reno, every Indian of the town flocked to the train to say some broken word.”

1911 Jack Cunningham, Harry Gosse, Jr., and other Reno boys built a glider which they pushed off the Court Street bluff with Jack as pilot, resulting in a glide for a short distance, then a safe landing.

1912 The Reno chapter of the International Concatenated Order of Hoo Hoo—we’re not making this up—initiated 20 new members. The national group, dedicated to the “welfare and promotion of the forest products industry,” still exists.

1913 The hillside “N” letter overlooking Reno was created on the slopes of Peavine Mountain.

1914 Washoe County officials removed a leper from the county hospital, drove him over the state line into California and abandoned him in the middle of the road. He next surfaced in Fresno.

1915 The French and English governments signed an agreement in Reno with Nevada rancher Neil West for the delivery within three months of 2,500 horses for $250,000 ($6,151,619.79 in 2017 dollars), the horses to be used by Allied troops.

1916 Reno’s Twentieth Century Club heard author Jean Morris Ellis (Character Analysis) speak on eugenics.

1917 Newly released figures showed a record 78 new homes built in Reno in 1916, but a slight decline in business construction.

1918 Gov. Emmet Boyle announced that wool from the First Sheep, a flock kept on the White House grounds, arrived in Reno, where it would be auctioned off, the money becoming Nevada’s wartime contribution to the American Red Cross.

1919 Sportswriter Al Spink predicted for the second time that a prizefight between Jess Willard and Jack Dempsey would he held in Reno. (It was held in Toledo.)

1920 Residents of Burke’s addition and other parts of Reno, represented by Patrick McCarran, won an order from the Nevada Supreme Court to the Public Service Commission and Reno Traction Company halting abandonment and removal of city trolley lines pending a hearing.

1921 Members of a group traveling to Los Angeles from Chicago said in Reno that Nevada and Idaho had the worst roads they’d encountered.

1922 Federal broadcasting license 310 was issued to Nevada Machinery and Electric in Reno for station KDZK.

1923 It was reported in Reno that the 18-month-old child of former Washington Senators pitcher Walter Johnson and his wife Hazel was recovering from an illness in San Francisco and would soon arrive in Reno to spend the summer with the child’s grandparents, Edwin Roberts—about to be elected Reno mayor—and his wife.

1924 Nevada Gov. James Scrugham and former governor Emmet Boyle were partners in a mine in Round Mountain, with Boyle adding supervision of the mine to his duties of managing the Nevada State Journal and the Reno Chamber of Commerce.

1925 The clubhouse of the Twentieth Century Club, a women’s service organization, was built on First Street, where it still stands.

1926 Reno’s arch and railroad depot were built.

1927 A single company mailed 100,000 letters at the Reno post office, the first of an expected two million, the largest load in the post office’s Reno history.

1928 The installation of dial telephones began in Reno.

1929 Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr., whose book Reno was being serialized, said he was forming a Reno Club of elite divorce alumni in New York City, and Nevada District Judge George Bartlett wired congratulations to the club. (Vanderbilt said of his book that some of the club members “are going to recognize themselves in its pages,” and when the book came out, Reno leaders denounced it.)

1930 The Literary Digest conducted polls of nine cities around the U.S. regarding alcohol prohibition, and the tally showed 727 Renoites favoring repeal, another 328 supporting modification of prohibition, and 218 supporting full enforcement of prohibition.

1931 The American Legion post in Reno hosted a discussion of the legal gambling legislation pending before the Nevada Legislature, with attorney H.R. Cooke supporting gambling and University of Nevada professor R.C. Thompson opposing it.

1931 A former congressmember selected to lease properties in the Boulder City reservation said he would make the town the antithesis of Reno—only U.S. citizens permitted, applicants judged on character, fitness and personality, and gambling or other prohibited activities grounds for revocation of leases.

1933 Officials of the Three Flags Highway Association from three states met in Reno for its second annual meeting to discuss what needed to be done to close the two remaining gaps in a highway running from Banff, Canada, to La Paz, Mexico.

1934 Following the disappearance of Roy Frisch, chief witness in the federal fraud trial of Reno mobsters William Graham and James MacKay, guards were put on bank assistant cashier Joseph Fuetsch, the next-most-important witness.

1935 In Reno, the Hoboes Union voted unanimously to oppose legislation pending before the Nevada Legislature that would limit the number of cars on a train, and sent a letter to Assemblymember L.R. Arnold, a Clark County Democrat: “We have difficulty in finding traveling accommodations with 125 or 150 cars, and the passage of the bill in question will greatly discommode us.”

1936 The Civilian Conservation Corps boys at Camp Reno held a dance for themselves and the people of the town before they ended their work and returned to their homes in the East.

1937 In San Francisco, two Reno floats—one featuring a replica of the Reno arch—took part in a parade marking the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge.

1938 A “bowl of rice party” benefit dance was held at Reno’s El Patio to raise money for food, medicine and shelter in China during the Sino-Japanese war, and the consul general from the Chinese consulate in San Francisco attended.

1939 After a case of short-weighted butter was confiscated from a Reno grocery store, it was given to the county hospital and the Crittenden children’s home to be “destroyed by consumption.”

1940 Reno police got new seven-pointed (heptagonal) badges.

1941 On CBS Radio’s Sunday evening series Silver Theatre, Kay Kyser, Ginny Simms and Joe Kearns starred in “Niagara to Reno.”

1942 Paul Elcano of Reno was appointed a foreign service officer and assigned to Paraguay.

1943 Some Reno stores began staying open late at the request of war production officials who believed that absenteeism in critical war work was the result of shopping that could not be done after working hours.

1944 Lt. Woodrow Ellertson of Reno was killed in action during a bombing mission over Drehm. He received the Air Medal posthumously for five missions over Europe.

1945 A “Dance for Democracy” was held in Reno at the El Patio Ballroom, with all enlisted men and women from the Reno Army Air Base and “registered hostesses,” whatever they were, invited.

1946 The Sparks city council had a discussion of whether the city should—if the Reno army air base was decommissioned—obtain the base gymnasium and move it to Sparks.

1947 The Motor-In Theatre, a drive-in theater, opened “one mile out South Virginia Road.”

1948 Residents of an East Liberty Street neighborhood gave a petition to the Reno City Council asking for construction of a crossing guard where the Virginia and Truckee railroad crossed Liberty.

1949 Richard Trachok was hired by the Reno School District No. 10 to be head football and track coach at Reno High School at a salary of $2,820 a year.

1950 Young piano students of Mrs. Ethel Zimmer gave a piano workshop in Reno, and Dawn Wells performed “On the Magic Lake,” “The Butterfly,” “Mantilla,” “To a Wild Rose,” and she performed “Indians” in a duet with Marlene Ferrari.

1951 New Jersey truck driver Paul Mandry moved to Reno after two atomic bomb detonations made him leave the south.

1952 There was criticism of a Reno Chamber of Commerce plan to change the name of Slide Mountain to Mount Reno, with snow surveyor James Church and members of the Nevada Historical Society opposing the change.

1953 The Reno Sparks Indian Colony formed a planning board to prepare for release of the colony’s residents from wardship and resultant securing of deeds to their properties.

1954 Reno city officials said they found little interest in attracting bids to operate a cigarette/news/car rental/information stand in the newly acquired municipal airport.

1955 A governor’s conference on mental health, a response to national news coverage of Nevada’s poor mental health services (particularly the Collier’s magazine article “The Sorry State of Nevada”), began in Reno.

1956 An exhibition began at the University of Nevada of the work of Reno Sparks Indian Colony art students of Chippewa art teacher Sun Bear.

1957 A gas explosion in downtown Reno damaged buildings in all directions, killed two people and injured 40.

1958 A bomb with three sticks of dynamite was removed from the 1952 Ford owned by Reno labor leader Lawrence Sigglekow. Sheriff Bud Young said it had been in the car for about a month and its failure to detonate resulted in two later attacks on Sigglekow’s life.

1959 At a public meeting on Reno’s freeway problems, attorney Morgan Anglim said, “Las Vegas is moving ahead, and Reno is standing still” on freeway construction.

1960 Reno citizens went to court to stop construction of a hospitality center in Powning Park, land which had been donated to the city on condition that it always be used for a park. (Eventually, a convention center was moved to Powning Park, which was destroyed except for a sliver where the hospitality center was built.)

1960 At Gray Reid’s department store in Reno, Bell Telephone Company of Nevada began three days of demonstrations of direct dialing on long distance calls.

1961 Native American leaders representing tribes in Utah, California and Reno met with Kennedy administration officials at Reno’s state building on proposals for reform of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

1962 Three days after Reno’s Golden Hotel burned down, killing six, the former owners ran a newspaper ad addressed to the hotel’s workers: “Our heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you for your loyalty during your years of faithful employment. No one realizes more than we that it was your integrity, friendliness and untiring efforts that made the Golden what it was.”

1963 A 20-year-old woman was hospitalized at Washoe Medical Center after an abortion she said was performed in a motel room by an unknown man for $350.

1964 U.S. Mint director Eva Adams predicted in Reno that Congress would halt the minting of silver dollars.

1965 A cross was burned in the garden of a Reno family’s home after a boy in the house said he received recruiting calls from callers identifying themselves as Klan members.

1966 After a federal official informed Nevada officials that the recently closed Stead Air Force Base north of Reno was being “cannibalized” to supply the Vietnam War and would be turned over to the state as “only an empty shell,” the Nevada Department of Education took its requested appropriation of $70,000 for a vocational education center at the base off the agenda of the 1966 special session of the Nevada Legislature.

1967 Reno city councilmembers denounced a proposal by assistant city attorney Sam Bull to remove parking meters from the city.

1968 The Reno underground newspaper Love began publication. Because of constant harassment by the Reno Police Department, the newspaper was driven out of business within five months.

1969 In Vietnam, Robert Leroy Morgan, Jr., of Reno died in Tay Ninh Province, and James Woodford Clark of Reno died in Phuoc Long.

1970 A committee appointed by Reno Mayor Roy Bankofier reported back with a recommendation that the city’s red line district, limiting casinos to a downtown area, be abolished.

1971 Nevada gambling regulators denied permission for use of electronic casino equipment—a “lucky seven” device manufactured by Baja Electonics that would have been used at Bill and Effie’s Boomtown in Verdi and a wheel of fortune device manufactured by Bally that would have been used at Reno’s Club Cal Neva.

1972 In the wake of Colorado voters’ rejection of the 1976 Winter Olympics, backers of a number of new sites, including 1960 site Squaw Valley, for which Reno had served as host city, geared up to win the event, although the 1960 games had been used as a bad example by Colorado opponents because they cost 13 times original estimates.

1973 The Reno City Council was battling two old Reno families over streets—the Kuenzli family was trying to enforce a 1951 agreement that Kuenzli Street keep its name in exchange for improvements made on the street, and the Casazzas were trying to block plans to change one way streets in a fashion that would hurt business at the family’s Shoppers Square strip mall.

1974 The Grateful Dead played UNR. (Dead fan “Ziphler”: “I remember buying an old station wagon for $50 to drive to a Dead show in Reno.”)

1975 UNR student John Davies was hazed to a death by alcohol poisoning by the Sundowners Club.

1976 The UNR student newspaper Sagebrush’s Bob Anderson, Paul Gallo and Michael Graham reported the agriculture college had—without authorization—altered the channel of the Truckee River, impeding the upstream spawn of trout and cui-ui, prompting a complaint and a $2,000,000 ($8,755,153.64 in 2017 dollars) claim from the downstream Pyramid Lake tribe, forcing UNR to restore the river channel. (Aerial photographs of the site were by Edd Lockwood.)

1977 Six casino/hotels with a cumulative 2,074 rooms were under construction in Reno, which when opened the next year triggered a summer of hell in the valley—people poured in looking for jobs; housing was exhausted; people lived in their cars; the sewage treatment plant capacity was exhausted, and traffic problems became rampant.

1978 Auto manufacturers critic Ralph Nader arrived in Reno for a speech, was picked up at the airport in a four-door sedan, and when they arrived at the destination, he pulled up on the door lock button, and the entire apparatus fell apart.

1979 With the western division of the new United Basketball Association coming apart (teams in Great Falls, Montana and Fresno had shut down), Reno Bighorns principal owner Bill Myers said he had decided to end his team’s operations.

1980 A mentally disturbed woman, Priscilla Ford, drove a car down a sidewalk in Reno, killing seven people and injuring 23.

1981 Nevada’s lieutenant governor, Myron Leavitt, said he opposed Reno’s Gay Rodeo: “They call them queers because they’ve got a screw loose. I’m strongly opposed to queers using public property. … It’s illegal, unnatural and abnormal behavior.”

1982 A school of law, Old College, started up in Reno.

1983 KNPB began broadcasting, and the Reno Evening Gazette published its last edition. Its sister newspaper, the morning Nevada State Journal, changed its name to the Reno Gazette-Journal.

1984 Bill Cosby allegedly arranged to fly actress Heidi Thomas to Reno to give her career advice, and she testified he gave her wine as part of a scene in which she was to play a drunk character, after which she woke up next to him in bed.

1985 The Children’s Cabinet opened.

1986 After more than a century of lodging structures on the site, Reno’s Riverside Hotel shut down.

1987 The Nevada Board of Regents declined to take over the financially sinking Old College School of Law in Reno.

1988 Reno police officers Guy McKillip and Milton Perry were arrested for allegedly taking a blind, intoxicated man 30 miles out of town and abandoning him alongside Interstate 80.

1989 Mario Puzo and Frances Ford Coppola stayed at the Reno Peppermill while working on the Godfather III script and gambling.

1990 A trial in state court in Reno of a lawsuit by parents of two suicidal boys against the rock group Judas Priest over alleged subliminal messages on one of their albums dominated celebrity coverage for weeks.

1991 UNR president Joe Crowley reported to the Nevada Board of Regents that the Reno City Council’s requirement that the campus provide adequate parking for new student housing was “devastating” to UNR’s student retention and recruitment.

1992 The New York Times reported that Harvey’s Tahoe officials confirmed they were in negotiations to buy Bally’s Reno, formerly the MGM Grand, but that Bally’s declined to confirm it.

1993 At UNR, the Reynolds School of Journalism was dedicated, named for media mogul Donald Reynolds, who was stripped of his broadcasting license by the Federal Communications Commission for corrupt business dealings.

1994 Candidates Jan Jones and Robert Miller, running for governor against each other in the Democratic primary, spoke against an anti-gay initiative petition at a rally at a Reno gay bar, Bad Dolly’s.

1995 A long battle between the bucolic neighborhood of Rewana Farms and Reno’s airport got underway as the airport tried to push its boundaries outward.

1996 Artown was formed, eventually becoming a dominant player in city arts affairs and drawing criticism because of it.

1997 Veteran Reno newspaper editor Ty Cobb died at age 81.

1998 The furnishings of Reno’s recently closed Nevada Club were sold at auction.

1999 Reno restaurant owner Marshall Fey, grandson of slot machine inventor Charles Fey, spoke at the Nevada State Museum on slot machine history.

2000 A Mormon temple was dedicated in Reno.

2001 Just 48 minutes into the new year, the new century, and the new millennium, three arsonists torched Temple Emanu-El in Reno.

2002 Bob Cashell moved to Reno to run for mayor and was narrowly elected, heading an administration that succeeded in getting city councilmembers to work together.

2003 Several hundred people filled Reno’s Manzanita Bowl hillside to protest George Bush’s impending invasion of Iraq.

2004 The Reno Gazette-Journal published a multi-part exposé by Frank Mullen, with arresting photographs, on allegations of animal abuse at the University of Nevada, Reno.

2005 Deux Gros Nez cafe in Reno marked its 20th anniversary.

2006 Twelve low-income people died in a fire that destroyed the Mizpah Hotel.

2007 Nurses at Renown, formerly Washoe Medical Center, voted 491-213 to unionize.

2008 An earthquake swarm, known as the Mogul-Somersett earthquake sequence, hit west Reno, rupturing the Highland Ditch wood flume.

2009 Scientists completed the first phase of seismic surveying through downtown Reno in a $1 million US Geological Survey study to draw an earthquake hazard map.

2010 Over a November weekend, 21 temblors shook south Reno.

2011 Casino Women, a study by UNR scholars Susan Chandler and Jill B. Jones, was published by Cornell.

2012 St. Mary’s hospital was sold to Dignity Health.

2013 The annual meeting of the National Congress of American Indians, held in Reno, was largely ignored by the nation’s news entities.

2014 Mayoral candidate Eddie Lorton went to court to get two city candidates disqualified, and that, plus normal change, gave Reno nearly all new faces at City Hall—some of whom had difficulty working with each other.

2015 UNR student Ivy Ziedrich confronted Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush on the Reno campus, telling him, “Your brother created ISIS.”

2016 Amid highly publicized police killings of citizens around the nation, the NAACP held a community meeting in Reno with local police to discuss the issues and implications.

2017 UNR tried to shut down—or transfer to off-campus firms—its Child and Family Research Center, formerly the Child Development Lab, that had operated since the early 1900s.