Filed Under Residences

Grimmon House (site)

Frank M. and Ada F. Lee House

What is now a vacant lot at 543 Court Street was once a beautiful residence overlooking the river. Its story began in 1906, when Robert Grimmon purchased five acres from Senator Francis G. Newlands, just east of the Newlands House. The large tract of land extended from Court Street all the way down to the Truckee River, and Grimmon divided it into two tiers to be sold for residences. Just a few months later, he sold thirteen lots of the lower portion, adjacent to the river, to the City of Reno for use as a public park.

Grimmon was for many years the superintendent of the Orphan’s Home in Carson City, and at the time of the property purchase, served as a U.S. Marshal. Construction of his Richardsonian Romanesque-style house, at the top of the bluff, got underway in 1907, at the same time that the nearby Nixon Mansion and Roy House were being built. In 1909, Grimmon stepped down as a Federal Marshall, and in 1910, he sold the house, called at the time “one of Reno’s most beautiful residences,” to Frank M. Lee, Vice President of the Nixon National Bank. Lee Avenue appears to have been created and named for the Lee family during their period of residence in the house.

Lee died in 1918, and his wife Ada moved away. The house was sold in 1921 to Mrs. Nellie C. Aiken, the wealthy widow of a Pittsburgh associate of Andrew Carnegie. Aiken had moved to Reno with her adult daughter, Nellie Aiken Graver, apparently to establish residency for Graver’s divorce, which was granted the following July. Nellie C. Aiken died in 1928, leaving her entire $2 million estate to her daughter, Nellie Graver, who lived in the home with a full array of servants until her own death in 1941.

Retired financier and Russian native William Zimdin bought the house in 1942 and sold it in 1947 to Marvin B. Humphrey. In 1956, the house was purchased by the Catholic Diocese of Reno for use as a Dominican brothers monastery. It was later sold to a developer who tore it down in 1964 to make way for “Court Towers,” a 13-story condominium project that was never constructed. It has remained a vacant lot ever since.

Images

Grimmon House, ca. 1915
Grimmon House, ca. 1915 Constructed in 1907-1908, the Grimmon House was once one of the grandest homes on Court Street. It was featured in a booklet called Beautiful Homes of Reno in 1915. Source: Nevada Historical Society Date: 1915
The Frank M. Lee family
The Frank M. Lee family Ada and Frank M. Lee pose with their daughter in a photograph taken around 1892. They lived in the house from 1911 until Frank's death in 1918. Source: Nevada Historical Society
1918 map
1918 map As viewed on the 1918 Sanborn Fire Insurance map, the Grimmon House once stood just east of the Hawkins House, where Court Street curves into Lee Avenue. The pink hue signifies structures made of brick. Source: U.S. Library of Congress Creator: Sanborn Fire Insurance Company Date: 1918
Grimmon House and Carriage House
Grimmon House and Carriage House A view from the north side of the Truckee River shows the Grimmon House at the top of the bluff and the winding road leading down to the carriage house on the river side of the property. Creator: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
A View from the North
A View from the North In this view from across the river, the back of the Grimmon House appears slightly to the right of center, with its carriage house down below. To the left is the rear elevation of the Roy House. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
Empty lot
Empty lot A view from the street in 2019 shows the empty lot where the Grimmon House once stood. Creator: Donna and Paul Erickson Date: 2019
View from across the Truckee
View from across the Truckee A view from the north bank of the Truckee River taken in 2019 shows the site where the Grimmon House once stood, up on the hillside between the Promenade on the River, a senior living community (left) and the Hawkins House (right). Creator: Donna and Paul Erickson

Location

543 Court Street, Reno, NV

Metadata

Alicia Barber, “Grimmon House (site),” Reno Historical, accessed July 23, 2024, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/197.