This impressive Newlands Heights home was finished in 1907 as a statement piece for U.S. Senator George S. Nixon, who was elected in 1905 by the Nevada State Legislature (which elected the state's representatives to the U.S. Senate until 1909). Nixon was born on a farm near Newcastle, California, in 1860. At the age of 20, he moved to Nevada and was first employed as a telegraph operator for the Carson-Colorado Railroad (subsequently merged into the Southern Pacific System) in the mining town of Belleville. Shortly thereafter, he relocated to Reno to begin his career at the First National Bank as a clerk. He next went to Winnemucca to serve as the cashier at the only bank in Humboldt County.
With the birth of the mining industry in Tonopah, George Nixon became a partner with George Wingfield. Both men became financially very successful in the mining industry in the process of the formation of the Goldfield Consolidated Mining Company. In addition, Nixon created a chain of banks, had agricultural pursuits, and was involved in stock speculation and land development with Senator Newlands. Senator Nixon was held in high regard by his fellow Senators and was well liked by members of both parties in the House of Representatives. As a national legislator, he championed the free and unlimited coinage of silver that was Nevada’s most important product.
Kate I. Bacon was born and raised in Illinois and was the stepsister of pioneer Reno merchant E.L. Bacon. Kate Bacon met her husband-to-be on a trip west with her mother, and the couple was married in 1887. The Nixons made their residence in Winnemucca for a number of years and then in 1906 started construction of their Reno mansion, reportedly paying $10,000 for the lot. Construction reportedly cost another $100,000. Following the Senator’s death in 1912, Kate Nixon liquidated her Nevada holdings and relocated to Southern California.
The three-story residence is of the Italian Renaissance Revival style, located on three-and-a-half acres overlooking the Truckee River, property that was sold to Nixon by his fellow U.S. Senator Francis G. Newlands. The house consists of 15,325 square feet plus a 5,585 square-foot finished basement, and originally had 33 rooms, including eight bedrooms, nine full bathrooms, and five half bathrooms. It was designed by the architectural firm Marshall and Fox of Chicago; the contractor was E. Remington of San Francisco.
In 1979, a massive fire left the interior uninhabitable. In 2002, Carla and Harry Hart purchased the estate and meticulously restored the property both inside and out. Interesting interior features include a formal dining room seating 60 people with a carved mahogany fireplace, two kitchens, a library, one of the first elevators in a Reno residence, a ballroom, a river-view bar, and a 1,800-bottle wine cellar and tasting room. The exterior features a circular driveway, a glass covered porte cochere (covered entrance), and a century-old ash tree, standing just outside the front entrance, cared for annually by the Arbor Association.