Filed Under Residences

Payne House

Esteemed Reno architect Edward Parsons designed the house at 745 California Avenue in 1941 for Frank R. Payne and his new wife, Hazel. Mr. Payne was a retired executive for the J.C. Penney organization who had moved to Reno with his first wife, Maude, in 1935. Maude passed away in 1938, and the following year, Payne married the former Hazel Salisbury Davison of Joplin, Missouri, who was 25 years his junior and an outgoing socialite known for her fur coats and white riding habit. To design their new home, the Paynes hired Parsons, who was the son-in-law of their next-door neighbors, the George C. Steinmillers.

Interviewed in 1983, Parsons recalled that Hazel Payne had shown him a photograph of a house she had in Los Angeles and told him, “This is what I like.” The English Tudor Revival style house was designed around a 20-foot diameter circular entry hall with thirteen openings. The massive arched stone doorway makes for a dramatic entrance. Otherwise, the rest of the house is brick to the first floor, and above that, half timber and stucco. Interesting architectural features include the tapestry effect of the decorative brickwork and the steep gabled roof line. The entire house encompasses 5,363 square feet plus a 2,077-square-foot finished basement, with six bedrooms and four-and-a-half bathrooms.

The Paynes did not spend many years together. Frank died after suffering a stroke in 1943 at the age of 74. Hazel went on to author numerous books and nationally published articles. Under the pen name of Greer Gay, she wrote a novel, The Case of the Well-dressed Corpse, about life in Reno during the 1940s and 1950s. Several scenes in the novel are set in rooms of this house. Hazel Payne served as president and one of the originators of the Reno Town Hall and the Reno Opera Association. She was also the first chairman of Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc., of Nevada. She was a member of the Twentieth Century Club, Washoe Medical Center Women’s League, Daughters of the American Revolution, Reno Little Theater, and the Writers and Authors Guild of America. She lived in the house until her own death in 1975 at the age of 83.


Payne House
Payne House A view of the house's front facade reveals its intricate brickwork and multiple window panes. Creator: Donna and Paul Erickson Date: 2014
Hazel Payne, 1939
Hazel Payne, 1939 A photograph of Hazel Payne accompanied the notice of her marriage to Frank R. Payne in May of 1939. Source: Reno Evening Gazette Date: May 16, 1939
Payne House, 1960s
Payne House, 1960s A view of the house in the 1960s shows a much sparer front entrance. Source: Nevada Historical Society Date: 1960s
Front gate
Front gate The front gate, which is all that can be viewed from the street, echoes the house's English Tudor Revival style. Creator: Donna and Paul Erickson
Lighting the way
Lighting the way The beautiful lamppost highlights the driveway entrance with its interesting combination of stone and brick. Creator: Donna and Paul Erickson
<em>The Case of the Well-dressed Corpse</em>
The Case of the Well-dressed Corpse Hazel Payne's novel, written under the nom de plume of Greer Gay, was published in 1953. Date: 1953
Pond and playhouse
Pond and playhouse The front yard of the residence features a pond and playhouse. Creator: Donna and Paul Erickson
Entry hall
Entry hall The circular entry hall has a total of thirteen openings. Creator: Donna and Paul Erickson
Back of the house
Back of the house A view from behind the house includes a new garage addition at the far left. Creator: Donna and Paul Erickson
Gazebo Behind the house, a gazebo overlooks the Truckee River. Creator: Donna and Paul Erickson
View from the gazebo
View from the gazebo The beautiful view from the gazebo includes the Truckee River and downtown Reno. Creator: Donna and Paul Erickson


745 California Avenue, Reno, Nevada


Donna and Paul Erickson, “Payne House,” Reno Historical, accessed June 17, 2024,