Filed Under Residences

Levy House

Prussian immigrant and dry goods magnate Wilhelm Levy had this spacious home built in 1906.

Merchant Wilhelm Levy immigrated to America from Prussia (Germany). Later, he moved to Nevada and operated dry goods stores in a couple of mining boom towns. In 1887, he moved to Reno and with his partner, Jacob Morris, rented a first-class store. The mercantile was finished with an iron façade and two plate glass show-windows.

In 1895, Levy opened his Palace Dry Goods and Carpet House in a two-story shop on East Second Street between North Virginia and Center Streets. One month later, Wilhelm married Tillie Goldsmith of Prussian ancestry in San Francisco. After their wedding, the Levys moved back and forth between San Francisco and Nevada. Their daughter Fritzie was born in San Francisco, while daughter Mildred was born in Reno.

In 1906, the Levys bought the land on the corner of Granite Street (now South Sierra Street) and California Avenue to build a large house in the Classic Revival architectural style. The front portico has six Ionic columns reaching up to the hipped and truncated roof with two dormer windows.

When she grew up, Fritzie spent her life in San Francisco, while Tillie, Wilhelm, and Mildred lived in the house until their deaths. Wilhelm died in 1920, and Tillie in the 1930s. After Tillie died, the sisters inherited the house. They subdivided the land, jacked it up, and moved the house to the west side of the property, turning it to face California Avenue. In 1941, the new address of the house was 121 California Avenue.

Mildred continued to live in the house, while Fritzie took the east side of the property and leased it to Signal Oil for a gas station facing South Sierra. In 1970, South Sierra Street was widened and the gas station was demolished.

After Mildred’s death in 1978, a group of attorneys and other businesses located their offices in the expansive home. Today, the Nevada Museum of Art owns the Levy House and has leased it to Sundance Books and Music. The house was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Audio

A new home for Sundance Interviewed in 2016, Christine Kelly discusses how she came to move Sundance Books & Music from its original home on West 4th Street into the Levy House. Creator: Alicia Barber Date: 2016

Images

Levy Home, ca. 1915
Levy Home, ca. 1915 Constructed in late 1906, the Levy House originally faced Sierra Street (then known as Granite Street). This view clearly shows the California Avenue street sign running parallel to what was originally the building's left side. Source: Nevada Historical Society Date: ca. 1915
Wilhelm Levy
Wilhelm Levy A small portrait depicts Wilhelm Levy, who also went by William. Born in Prussia, he immigrated to the United States at age 25 and died in 1920 at age 62. Source: Ron Zideck
Fritzie and Mildred
Fritzie and Mildred Wilhelm and Tillie's two daughters, Fritzie (left) also known to her family as Mimi, and her sister Mildred (right), also known as Tinker, grew up in the home. Mildred continued to live in the house until her death in 1978. Source: Wendy Coblentz
Palace Dry Goods
Palace Dry Goods The house's owner, Wilhelm (William) Levy, partnered with Herman Morris to operate the successful Palace Dry Goods Store. Founded in 1895, the store moved in 1914 into this spacious new structure on the southwest corner of Center and Second Streets. Levy named it the Fordonia Building after his birthplace in Germany. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
Levy House, 1970s
Levy House, 1970s Wilhelm and Tillie Levy's daughter Mildred lived in the spacious house until her death in 1978. By that time, the neighborhood had become substantially more commercial in nature. Source: Nevada Historical Society Date: 1970s
National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places At the time of its listing in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, the house was occupied by law offices. In the rear can be seen the high rise office building on the east side of South Sierra Street. Source: National Register of Historic Places nomination form Creator: Paula Boghosian Date: 1981
Sundance Books and Music
Sundance Books and Music Eventually, the neighboring Nevada Museum of Art purchased the property, and in 2011 leased it to Sundance Books and Music. Source: Sundance Books and Music
Christine Kelly
Christine Kelly Sundance Books & Music owner Christine Kelly stands inside the Levy House, which became home to the popular independent store in 2011. Creator: Patrick Cummings Date: 2016

Location

121 California Avenue, Reno, NV

Metadata

Patty Cafferata, “Levy House,” Reno Historical, accessed June 14, 2024, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/129.