Attorney Prince Albert Hawkins purchased this plum piece of property from Senator Francis G. Newlands in 1912 and hired architect Elmer Gray of Los Angeles to design his grand family residence at 549 Court Street. Gray also designed and built the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Huntington Library.
Prince Hawkins and his wife, Myrtle, had relocated to Reno from Denver, Colorado, in 1910, when his law firm decided to move west and chose Reno over San Francisco after that city’s 1906 earthquake and fire. Hawkins became very influential in Northern Nevada legal and financial circles in the 1920s and ‘30s and was active in legal Bar Association activities at the local, county, state and national levels.
Myrtle Hawkins was an alumni member of Pi Beta Phi who successfully established the Alpha Chapter of her sorority at the University of Nevada. She was also an active member of the local Presbyterian Church, and was appointed by the Governor to serve on several State commissions. The couple had three sons and two daughters. After attending Stanford University, Stanford Law School, and Harvard Law School, their son, Robert Ziemer Hawkins, returned to Reno in 1927 to practice law with his father through the firm Hawkins, Rhodes and Hawkins.
In 1938, Robert Z. Hawkins married Katherine Mackay, who was the granddaughter of John W. Mackay of Comstock mining fame, and upon Prince Hawkins’ death in 1939, Robert and his new wife took up residency in the family home. He had a smaller replica of the family house constructed across the street, where Myrtle lived until the age of 94. Having gained a considerable fortune, Robert Z. Hawkins decided to leave the bulk of his estate in trust expressly for charitable purposes in perpetuity, and over the past decades, the Robert Z. Hawkins Foundation has had a major impact in northern Nevada.
Robert’s son, Robert Mackay, gave the house to the Hawkins Foundation in 1979, and through the Foundation, it became home to the Sierra Nevada Museum of Art. After the gallery moved to Liberty Street in 1989, Melinda and Dan Gustin purchased the Hawkins House and opened it as offices for their design and advertising firm in 1995.
The Prince Hawkins House is of the Colonial Revival style consisting of 6,110 square feet plus a 1,300-square-foot finished basement and four bathrooms. Interesting architectural features include the Flemish bond brick exterior construction, large front portico with Ionic columns including rams’ horns, sidelights, and a fanlight. The house has a vast kitchen complex, servants' quarters upstairs, and a magnificent view of the Truckee River and downtown Reno from its large windows on the north and east sides. It is listed on both the Federal and State Registers of Historic Places and received the City of Reno’s First Landmark designation.