Walk this way
Historic Reno Preservation Society walking tours
In May 1997, a small group of Renoites came together in celebration of an annual event that to this day doesn’t get a ton of attention—National Historic Preservation Week. Led by a woman named Pat Klos, the group embarked on a walking tour of the historic homes on Humboldt and Lander Streets (right in the neighborhood where the RN&R offices are located today). Afterward, they proceeded to My Favorite Muffin to discuss starting a new organization to promote local historic preservation causes. The Historic Reno Preservation Society was born, and guided walking tours became one of its mainstay activities.
The third issue of the HRPS newsletter, printed in August 1998, noted the successful inclusion of HRPS’ walking tours in the second annual Artown celebration. The newsletter also contained a membership application and an advertisement for the 52nd National Preservation Conference in Savannah, Georgia.
A little box on the second page was reserved for a self-congratulatory shout-out: “The July 1998 issue of Preservation, the Magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has a small article about HRPS including a photo of one of our walks along Court Street. Hooray for Reno! Our newfound historic preservation attitude is capturing national attention.”
A column at the bottom of the newsletter praised another bit of national attention—the Truckee Meadows Heritage Trust’s success in getting the Mapes Hotel listed as one of the country’s 11 most endangered buildings by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“HRPS kind of started because of the Mapes,” said founding member and administrator Cindy Ainsworth. “So, that was all going on in that period when we started, and Pat Klos decided, ’Well, we need maybe another organization so people can come and voice their opinions.’ And a few people did come and voice their opinions during that. We couldn’t save it, but that’s—I don’t know. I get a little disappointed and frustrated with the way some of the—maybe the city has looked at it. It should be stronger.”
The Mapes Hotel was demolished on January 30, 2000, less than two years after HRPS was founded. But the group carried on. Today, HRPS offers nearly three dozen different historical walking tours every year between May and September. The money they raise through membership fees, walking tours, and their annual Harvest of Homes event has been used to fund some 30 grants, totaling more than $76,000, to help local homeowners rehabilitate their historic properties.The path to knowledge
HRPS tours are led by volunteers who dedicate their time not only as guides but also as researchers for their respective tours.
“We’ve had some of our tour guides since the beginning,” said Ainsworth. “And we have some really good historians as volunteers. We have a couple people who do like three or four tours, and they really get into the research. Once you start doing research like this, you really, really—it’s really exciting, you know, to find out about various homes.”
One such volunteer is realtor and historic preservation activist Barrie Lynn. She leads tours in the Midtown district and the neighborhood west of Wells Avenue. Lynn has lived in the Wells Avenue neighborhood for 13 years, during which time she’s had a hand in numerous preservation-minded redevelopment projects there and also in the establishment of the Wells Avenue Neighborhood Historic Conservation District.
“I worked for about four years with various entities with the university and in the community, and we surveyed a 40-block area—between Holcomb Avenue and Locust Street, between Ryland and Vassar—and that was our conservation district footprint,” Lynn said. “We surveyed every structure in that area, and then we had to look at what was the predominant architectural style. We had to look at the integrity of the neighborhood. There were a lot of criteria that had to be met. And we qualified as a historic district.”
HRPS guides spend a great deal of time on research during the off-season between tours, when they’re regulars at the Nevada Historical Society and the University of Nevada Reno’s Special Collections department. But according to Lynn, a lot of the most valuable information comes from neighborhood residents, both past and present.
“A lot of my research has been completed through personal interviews. So, I have tracked down a lot of people that grew up in the neighborhood.”
One interview Lynn conducted was with longtime Wells Avenue resident Joe Bridgman, who was born on a farm on Wells Avenue in 1918 and spent most of his life living in the neighborhood. Bridgman recalled the trolley that ran down Wells Avenue when he was just a kid, and also the street’s transition from residential housing to commercial buildings.
“He just died about two years ago,” Lynn recalled. “He was 97. He basically gave me all of his old photos, so I can see what it looked like and where he lived on his farm on Wells and Thoma. So, I’m able to use these pictures that people have just graciously given me from their family albums. That has added so much to my research.”Choose your own adventure
Most HRPS tours are only given once a year. They require reservations, and with only about 35 spaces available per tour, it's a good idea to make them a bit in advance. More about dates and prices can be found on the HRPS website or the organization's Facebook page.
This year’s tour schedule kicks off on May 11 with a tour called “Inside DeLongchamps’ Downtown.” The tour will be led by Sharon Honig-Bear and includes visits to the inside of the Downtown Post Office building, the historic Washoe County Courthouse, and several of the artists’ lofts at the Riverside.
Debbie Hinman’s “University Neighborhood” tour on May 24 will include the neighborhood to the south of the UNR campus, including the historic Queen Anne style homes that may be torn down as a result of the university’s Gateway Project plans.
On May 28, Cindy Ainsworth will lead the “Roads and Rails, Historic Fourth Street Corridor” tour through Reno’s emerging brewery district. The tour includes information on the origins of the Lincoln Highway and stops by the historical Flanigan warehouse building, and the old Nevada, California and Oregon Railroad building—now home to The Depot Craft Brewery and Distillery.