Original Reno City Hall (site)

Headquarters for Reno government from 1907-1965

Reno underwent a rapid transformation in the first decade of the 20th century, as mineral discoveries in Tonopah and Goldfield brought more residents and more secure economic footing to the state. The city’s business district expanded, as did its civic infrastructure. The blocks on both sides of the Truckee River between Virginia and Center Streets experienced a particularly impressive flurry of construction within just a few years. A Carnegie Free Library was constructed on the south side of the river in 1904, followed by a new concrete Virginia Street Bridge in 1905, and a brick Riverside Hotel and three-story Masonic Temple in 1906.

In 1905, City leaders decided that it was time to build a new City Hall. The one-story brick building being used by City officials at the time was so small it was referred to by the editors of the Reno Evening Gazette as an “unspeakable shack.” A single room was being used as a Council chamber, police station, City Clerk’s office, and police court, and the jail was badly crowded.

Five architects competed to design a new City Hall, to be located at the northwest corner of East First Street (then called Front Street) and North Center Street. The winning design was submitted by local architect Morrill J. Curtis, who drew up plans for a two-story brick building on a foundation of granite blocks with an ornamental clock tower and an entrance facing south. The building opened in the spring of 1907. On its first floor were offices for the Mayor, City Clerk, Chief of Police and City Judge, an emergency two-room “hospital,” and a court room, with a jail for men in the northwest corner. The second floor held offices for the City Attorney, City Engineer, the Board of Health, a reading room, library, Council chamber, and jail quarters for boys and women. The basement held utilities, vaults, and a “dungeon for unruly city prisoners.”

The new City Hall became the hub of civic life, a role that was strengthened in 1908 when the owners of the Reno Evening Gazette decided to construct their new building just to its north. In 1909, a new Federal Building and Post Office was constructed on Virginia Street between First Street and the river.

By the late 1950s, City government had determined that its existing City Hall was too small, and could not be expanded due to physical constraints on every side. The First National Bank of Nevada offered to purchase the parcel, and before even finding a new site to construct a new City Hall, the City accepted the bank’s offer and announced its sale of the property in March of 1961. The bank started construction on a high rise building just to the west in September 1961 (see separate entry for First National Bank Tower) and had a parking garage constructed on the site of the old City Hall in 1964. A new City Hall was built on the former site of the Southside School at 490 S. Center Street, opening in 1965. The parking lot on the former site of Reno's original City Hall now provides parking for the current City Hall, which moved into the First National Bank Tower in 2004.

Images

Reno's original City Hall at midcentury
Reno's original City Hall at midcentury Reno's original City Hall stood at the corner of East First Street and Center Street from 1907 to 1963. To the left in this photo is the Nixon Building, a three-story commercial building that was replaced by the First National Bank Tower in 1963. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada Libraries
The new City Hall in 1908
The new City Hall in 1908 A promotional postcard pictured Reno's new City Hall in 1908, prior to the construction of the new Federal Building and Post Office that would be built on Virginia Street between First Street and the river in 1909. This photo looks northeast over the Virginia Street Bridge from the Riverside Hotel on the south bank of the river. Source: Philip Galbraith Date: 1908
1918 Reno Sanborn Map
1918 Reno Sanborn Map The Sanborn Fire Insurance map of Reno published in 1918 shows the relationship of Reno City Hall to other landmarks at the time, including the Post Office/Federal Building, the Y.M.C.A, and the Majestic Theatre, all of which stood on the opposite side of Front Street (since renamed East First Street). Source: U.S. Library of Congress Creator: Sanborn Fire Insurance Company Date: 1918
Gazette Building, City Hall, and Majestic Theatre
Gazette Building, City Hall, and Majestic Theatre A postcard view looking southwest from N. Center Street shows Reno City Hall at the corner of Center and First Streets, with the Gazette Building just to its north and the Majestic Theatre on the opposite side of First Street. Source: Department of Special Collections, University of Nevada Libraries
Majestic Theater, Reno City Hall, and Gazette Building, midcentury
Majestic Theater, Reno City Hall, and Gazette Building, midcentury A midcentury view of Reno City Hall shows the building between the Majestic Theatre and the Gazette Building, both of which had undergone facade renovations since their initial construction. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
City Hall parking garage
City Hall parking garage The City Hall building was demolished in order for the First National Bank to construct a parking garage for its new bank tower next door. In 2004, the bank tower became Reno's new City Hall, and the City later purchased the parking garage. A mural by Charly and Sam Malpass titled "Bluebirds Among Sage" was painted on the structure in 2022. Source: This is Reno Creator: Eric Marks Date: 2022

Location

33 East First Street, Reno, Nevada

Metadata

Alicia Barber, “Original Reno City Hall (site),” Reno Historical, accessed June 14, 2024, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/250.