Luella Garvey House

Luella Garvey moved to Reno from Pasadena, California in 1929. Mrs. Garvey was the wealthy widow of a Cincinnati steel magnate. She selected a parcel in Reno’s most fashionable neighborhood and in 1934, commissioned the African-American architect Paul Revere Williams to design the most expensive house ever built in the city up to that time. Paul R. Williams had already earned the sobriquet “architect to the stars” for his work in Beverly Hills and Holmby Hills near Los Angeles.

With a price tag of $40,000, Paul Williams designed a white, two-story Classical Revival-style duplex with French Regency accents and landscaping that cost a quarter of the cost of the entire project. Williams drew on his signature California architectural features in both halves of the duplex, which included open balconies with ornamental iron railings, an elaborate entry staircase with iron work and carved wooden details, window seats, and French doors. The master suite had a small, vine-covered porch with views of the extensive landscaping. Further tying the interior luxury to the luxuriant garden was brick-paved interior courtyard and patio.

Following Mrs. Garvey’s death, Mr. and Mrs. Nathan “Nick” Abelman bought the house. Abelman was a Nevada gaming pioneer who went to Goldfield in 1906, during the height of the mining boom there. In Goldfield, Nick Abelman operated clubs and casinos, moving to Tonopah in 1913 where he became associated with Bill Graham, James McKay, and George Wingfield. In 1927, George Wingfield, who had become Reno’s most powerful businessman, urged Abelman to come to Reno. Over the next two and a half decades, Nick Abelman operated a number of prominent Reno gambling establishments.

Nick Abelman died in 1951, and his widow, June, stayed in the house on California Avenue until December 1978, when it was purchased and converted into a single home. Although the building has been updated and renovated it remains true to Williams’s original design. With the exception of the conversion of a patio into a parking space and the loss of some of the surrounding wall, the house looks much today as it did when Mrs. Garvey first entered the front door.

Credited as the first Paul R. Williams residence in Reno, the Garvey House is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Images

Garvey House, 2003

Garvey House, 2003

The west elevation of the Luella Garvey House, listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, shows the connection between the house's two sections. The house and grounds fill three city lots. Image courtesy of the National Register of Historic Places | Creator: Mella Rothwell Harmon View File Details Page

An elaborate balcony

An elaborate balcony

The wrought iron detailing on the Garvey House has been identified as representing the Regency style. This elaborate balcony, however, has a certain French flavor. Photo by Sam Brackstone. Image courtesy of the Paul Revere Williams Project, University of Memphis View File Details Page

The porch

The porch

The Garvey House is in general a Colonial Revival style house, but delicate foliated wrought-iron porch supports replace the classical columns typical of the style. Photo by Sam Brackstone. Image courtesy of the Paul Revere Williams Project, University of Memphis View File Details Page

Wrought iron detail

Wrought iron detail

Despite problems being accepted by the local construction community, Williams established a relationship with Andrew Ginocchio of Reno Iron Works for the elaborate wrought iron detailing on the Garvey House. Photo by Sam Brackstone. Image courtesy of the Paul Revere Williams Project, University of Memphis View File Details Page

A graceful gate

A graceful gate

This graceful wrought iron gate ties together the Regency style elements and the landscape design of the Garvey House. Photo by Sam Brackstone. Image courtesy of the Paul Revere Williams Project, University of Memphis View File Details Page

An integrated landscape

An integrated landscape

Following his first year of a three-year course of study at the Los Angeles atelier of the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design, Paul R. Williams took a job with the landscape architect Wilbur D. Cook. Under Cooks' tutelage, Williams learned the importance of integrating landscape with architectural design. Photo by Sam Brackstone. Image courtesy of the Paul Revere Williams Project, University of Memphis View File Details Page

Paul Revere Williams

Paul Revere Williams

A portrait of the architect, Paul Revere Williams. Image courtesy of Lear Theater, Inc. View File Details Page

Street Address:

599 California Avenue, Reno, NV [map]

Cite this Page:

Mella Harmon, “Luella Garvey House,” Reno Historical, accessed March 29, 2017, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/114.

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