Filed Under Residences

Howell House (site)

Also referred to as the Sinai Mansion, the house stood on California Avenue for 107 years.

At the corner of Hill Street and California Avenue sat a lovely Colonial Revival house that was home to five generations of the Howell family and later, as often happened with large close-in properties, adaptively reused as office space for attorneys, accountants and other professionals. Construction on the home began in the fall of 1915 and was completed in the spring of 1916. It was a beautiful home with a symmetrically-balanced façade and accentuated front entry. The pedimented entry porch featured a classically-inspired front door with sidelights and a fanlight.

Nevada architect Fred Schadler designed the home for the Howells. Schadler had already proven his architectural skill with earlier projects such as the elegant Elks Home at First and Sierra Streets (1904-1957) and the Mission Revival Frank Humphrey House at the corner of Ralston and W. Fifth Streets (1906-present). He would go on to add the Twentieth Century Club at 335 W. First Street (1925-present) and the Steinmiller Parsons House (1921-present) at 761 California Avenue to his impressive portfolio.

Prior to coming to Reno, the Howell family had been living in Tonopah where Eugene William Howell was active in mining and banking. They decided to make the move to Reno sometime before 1914 and Mrs. Maud Howell, her mother Rosa Haines, and children, Eugene, Jack and James as well as their Chinese cook of many years, Charlie Hay, moved to a home on South Center Street while their new home was under construction. Eugene William was to follow as soon as he had wrapped up his business affairs. However, Eugene would never see his new home. A telegram from Tonopah notified the family of his sudden death. Mrs. Howell, pregnant with her fourth child, shortly gave birth to a daughter, Betty. The remainder of the family moved into the grand Hill Street home as planned. As the children grew and married, a new generation of Howells populated the home. Five generations of the Howell family lived in the home at various times; the last being Margaret “Neal” Sullivan Howell who occupied it until it was sold in 1977 for law offices.

That year, Reno native and local attorney David P. Sinai purchased the property and along with John Ohlson, Jr., Theodore J. Schroeder and Michael R. Specchio, formed a professional corporation and relocated their offices to 448 Hill Street. Although the interior had to be reconfigured to accommodate individual offices, the elegant feel of the home was retained with classic, tasteful furnishings and design elements. In 2001 ownership of the building passed to the California Avenue Group, LLC. David Sinai passed away in 2006; other professional tenants continued to occupy the building until it was sold in 2018 to Latimer Properties LLC, and then transferred to the Nevada Museum of Art in 2019.

The current Nevada Museum of Art, designed by architect Will Bruder, opened in 2003 and occupies a site adjacent to the Howell House. Two old homes were demolished to provide room for the structure and now with plans for expansion in 2023, the museum would like to clear the land occupied by the Howell House. A Reno couple active in purchasing and restoring numerous historic properties, mainly throughout the Old Southwest sector of the city, Tim and Nancy Gilbert, proposed moving the house to a lot owned by the City of Reno on the Truckee River, at the very end of Riverside Drive just past the Booth Street bridge, leasing the land from the city. The City of Reno rejected the idea, and with no time to explore further options, the house was demolished in April of 2023.

Images

The Howell House in 2022
The Howell House in 2022 The Howell House sits at the corner of California Avenue and Hill Street. Viewed here from Hill Street, it was in direct line of expansion plans for the Nevada Museum of Art. Creator: Deb Hinman Date: 2022
The Howell House from California Avenue
The Howell House from California Avenue A view in 2021 shows the Howell House as viewed from California Avenue. Source: Google Maps Date: 2021
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1918
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1918 The footprint of the Howell House can be seen at the bottom left on Sheet 42 of the 1918 Sanborn Fire Insurance map of Reno. The entire block bounded by Hill, California, Granite (Sierra), and Liberty Streets consisted of wood frame buildings, denoted by the color yellow. Note the Mt. Rose Hospital facing Granite Street and the building at the map's center labeled "auto garage," colored pink to indicate brick construction. Source: U.S. Library of Congress Creator: Sanborn Fire Insurance Company Date: 1918
Demolition, April 2023
Demolition, April 2023 Following a failed attempt to have the house moved to a City parcel on Riverside Drive, the Howell House was demolished in April of 2023. Creator: Mercedes de la Garza Date: 2023

Location

448 Hill Street, Reno, Nevada

Metadata

Deb Hinman, “Howell House (site),” Reno Historical, accessed June 16, 2024, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/239.