Townsell House

This site is part of the Black Springs tour, a partnership with Our Story, Inc. Visit the Tours page for the tour introduction and complete list of sites.

In June of 1956, Jeffie and Carrie Townsell and their children were on their way to Seattle where Jeffie's brother, a merchant seaman, was going to help Jeffie find a job, when they stopped in Black Springs to visit Carrie's parents, Ollie and Helen Westbrook. Jeffie decided to try his luck gambling at the New China Club, one of the few casinos that welcomed Black patrons. It didn't go so well, and he lost all his money. As a result, both Jeffie and Carrie set out to find jobs in the Reno area to save up some more money before moving along.

For a year, they rented a shack in Black Springs, and decided to put down roots in the neighborhood. In June of 1957 they purchased a home and land from an elderly Black couple, Jimmie and Mamie Holliday, who were moving away for health reasons. The property, which cost them $900, was adjacent to Ollie and Helen Westbrook's house, and was originally very small, with just a living room and kitchen. The family set up bunk beds and double beds in the living room, where everyone slept. Because there was no running water until 1958, the family of five originally used an outhouse, and bathed in the middle of the house's floor in a round tin tub. The couple eventually had seven children: Larry, Anthony, Maurice, Duane, JoJo, Helen, and Jeffie Jr.

Upon arriving in Reno, Jeffie began working construction for Coral Construction Company, where he worked for thirty years. He expanded the family home by building four comfortable bedrooms. During his career, his construction team helped build many prominent casinos and buildings in Reno, including the Peppermill, Harrah's Reno, John Ascuaga's Nugget, Circus Circus, Harvey's Lake Tahoe, and the Arlington Towers apartments. He was also a member of the Black Springs Fire Department, a Deacon at Black Springs Baptist Church, and a member of the Heavenly Gospel Singers. He died in 2020 and the house at 365 Westbrook Lane remains with the family.



365 Westbrook Lane, Reno, Nevada