McKinley Park School

Designed by the local architect George Ferris in 1909, the McKinley Park School was the first to be constructed of the so-called "Spanish Quartet," four single-story Mission Revival style schools built in Reno in the early 20th century. The schools represented a growth spurt in the city of Reno and were highly praised at the time of their construction for their modern convenience and technology, as well as their potential to serve as community focal points.

The use of Mission Revival style has been attributed to the preference of the school superintendent at the time, B. D. Billinghurst, who was enamored of Spanish architecture. However, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction reported to the legislature in 1915 that mission architecture was chosen as it "is especially adapted to one-story buildings," and he added "there is nothing better for school purposes than one-story buildings. The one-story plan eliminates the stair climbing so destructive to the nervous strength of pupils and teachers, and also renders danger from fire impossible."

McKinley Park School is located across Riverside Drive from the Truckee River, and large trees give the expansive grounds a park-like feel. The stucco-surfaced school is U-shaped with a central open court and an arcade sheltering the main entry. A two-story central tower stands at the base of the U, with a one-story wing extending behind it. The school has undergone rehabilitation and now serves as the City of Reno's Arts and Culture Center, which is open to the public. The rehabilitation effort was supported through grant funds from the National Park Service's Historic Preservation Fund.

Images

A pastoral scene

A pastoral scene

The rural setting of the school in its early years is confirmed by this view of a horse grazing near school grounds. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

Seventh Graders, 1913

Seventh Graders, 1913

McKinley Park School seventh graders pose in front of its stucco arches in 1913. On the far right in the top row is William Caughlin of the local Caughlin ranching family. Photo by T. C. Wohlbruck. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

Unfinished landscaping, ca. 1915

Unfinished landscaping, ca. 1915

Stylish adults stroll in front of the McKinley Park School, ca. 1915. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

A Reno showpiece

A Reno showpiece

With its lovely architecture and peaceful riverfront setting, the McKinley Park School was clearly a source of great civic pride. Image courtesy of Dick Dreiling View File Details Page

Aerial view, 1920s

Aerial view, 1920s

A view of McKinley Park School in the 1920s shows the bank of the river in the foreground and the surrounding homes of the tree-lined Powning Addition. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

Winter Scene, 1920s

Winter Scene, 1920s

A hand-tinted postcard of McKinley Park School from the 1920s depicts a frosty winter day. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

First graders, 1945

First graders, 1945

A first grade class poses on the side steps of the McKinley Park School in 1945. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

McKinley Arts and Culture Center

McKinley Arts and Culture Center

Renovated in 1999, the former McKinley Park School has been renamed the McKinley Arts and Culture Center to befit its new civic use, but retains its original sign. Image courtesy of the City of Reno, Historical Resources Commission View File Details Page

Post-renovation, 2004

Post-renovation, 2004

Encompassing the city block bounded by Riverside Drive, Vine Street, Jones Street, and Keystone Avenue, the former school, depicted here in 2004, still boasts its historic charm and verdant setting. Photo by Max Chapman View File Details Page

Street Address:

925 Riverside Drive, Reno, NV [map]

Cite this Page:

Mella Harmon, “McKinley Park School,” Reno Historical, accessed August 16, 2017, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/26.

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