Miller-Rowe-Holgate House

The Miller-Rowe/Holgate House represents Reno’s changing trends in housing during the first half of the twentieth century. The Queen Anne-style house was built in 1903, as a single family residence that Jeanette Miller, the first owner, used as a rental property. The mining booms in Tonopah and Goldfield can be credited in part with the increased need for rental housing in Reno at the turn of the century. In those first few years, there was general prosperity and Reno's population nearly doubled. The subsequent two decades brought Reno continued progress and a growing reputation for its unique social industries, especially the migratory divorce trade for which Reno had developed a national reputation by 1910.

In August 1920, C. Leslie and Gladys Rowe purchased the house at 18 Winter Street. The couple already ran a divorce boarding house in their private home at 3 Washington Street, with Gladys serving as the resident witness, testifying in court that her tenants had indeed spent every day of the legal residency requirement in Reno. The residency requirement was the key to Reno’s famous “quickie” divorces.

With back-to-back rooming houses, the Rowes were able to generate a good deal of the divorce trade business attracted by newspaper advertisements such as: "For-rent Rooms. Housekeeping privileges, cool, clean, residential, close in"; "Attractive rooms, kitchen privileges, rent reduced, six blocks from post office"; and "Lovely Room for Lady, divorcée preferred. $7.00/week."

In 1932, the Rowes took on Arthur Holgate as a business partner. During the mid-1930s, Mrs. Rowe managed the house at 3 Washington Street, while Arthur Holgate ran the Winter Street property, serving as resident witness for the tenants. By 1938, the Rowe-Holgate divorce-housing partnership had ended and 18 Winter Street was sold to Olga DiBitonto. Within a few years, the DiBitontos built a brick duplex facing Jones Street on the lot adjoining the house. At the same time, the DiBitontos enlarged the rooming house to four units, built a four-car garage, and added a layer of brick veneer to the exterior in order to visually unify their rental holdings. In its updated form, 18 Winter Street continued to offer attractive and comfortable rental units to Reno's short and long-term residents.

Images

From family home to boarding house

From family home to boarding house

Like many other single family homes in Reno, the Miller-Rowe-Holgate House, depicted here around 2005, was set up as a boarding house to cater to the scores of divorce-seekers who needed housing while they waited out the legally-required residency period. View File Details Page

Individual garages for boarding house residents

Individual garages for boarding house residents

The Miller-Rowe-Holgate House offered the rare amenity of individual garages along the back alley for its temporary occupants. circa 2005 View File Details Page

Commercial incarnation

Commercial incarnation

The Miller-Rowe-Holgate House as it appears in 2014. In recognition of its role in Reno's divorce trade, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Image courtesy of Mella Harmon, photographer View File Details Page

Colonial Revival architecture

Colonial Revival architecture

The Miller-Rowe-Holgate House was built in 1902, in the Colonial Revival style of architecture. The lovely balcony reflects the characteristics of the style. Image courtesy of Mella Harmon, photographer View File Details Page

Modern conversion

Modern conversion

In 2014, the block surrounding the Miller-Rowe-Holgate House began to undergo a renaissance. Here, the garages on the back of the Miller-Rowe-Holgate House are being converted to a modern use, while retaining the essence of the original structure. Photo by Mella Harmon View File Details Page

Street Address:

18 Winter Street, Reno, NV [map]

Cite this Page:

Mella Harmon, “Miller-Rowe-Holgate House,” Reno Historical, accessed August 21, 2017, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/10.

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