Lovers Lane

Although unnamed and all-but-forgotten, Lovers Lane still exists as a sanitized version of its former self. The alley runs north between 1st (originally Front) and 2nd Streets and east between Center and Lake Streets. Despite the cement anonymity today, the area was once Reno’s tenderloin district, lined with prostitution shacks. Chinatown, another center of vice with opium dens and prostitution, joined it to the east. The Alley was commonly referred to as Lovers Lane until as late as the 1970s.

The “love” in this Lane was available for sale. Reno residents tolerated the trade as long as it was contained in this area but in 1907 Sheriff Charles Ferrel began a campaign to close down the establishments. He backed his efforts by a Nevada law that prohibited “houses of ill-fame” within 400 yards of a school. Southside School’s proximity allowed him to enforce the law. On one Tuesday alone, the Sheriff visited 141 women in this red light district. In 1908 City fathers burned Chinatown as part of its cleanup effort. Over the next twenty years, combatting prostitution and opium dens was an ongoing battle. In 1932, the Reno City Council ordered the razing of the last rows of wooden shacks in Lovers Lane--although it doesn’t appear that the order was carried out.

Through the years, legitimate businesses such as Herman Bonta’s Garage, Reno Auto Laundry and Sterling Appliance also called the Alley home. Despite this colorful history, Lovers Lane never quite had the importance of the three named downtown alleys--Fulton Douglas, and Lincoln.

Images

"Female Boarding" in 1904

"Female Boarding" in 1904

A Sanborn fire insurance map published in 1904 depicts the brothels (labeled "Female Boarding") lining either side of Lovers Lane. Yellow indicates that these "cribs" were constructed of wood. Note the surrounding Chinese laundries, colored green to indicate a site of Specially Hazardous Risk, regardless of construction materials. Image courtesy of U.S. Library of Congress View File Details Page

Tenements, 1918

Tenements, 1918

As seen on a 1918 Sanborn fire insurance map, the "female boarding," or prostitutes' quarters, formerly lining the alley were now referred to as "tenements." The surrounding block was now home to more permanent structures such as the I.O.O.F. (Odd Fellows) Building. Image courtesy of U.S. Library of Congress View File Details Page

Lovers Lane, 2016

Lovers Lane, 2016

The alley today, shown looking north from First Street, bears no trace of its former life. | Creator: Alicia Barber View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Sharon Honig-Bear, “Lovers Lane,” Reno Historical, accessed March 27, 2017, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/159.

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