The Mount Rose Elementary School was constructed in 1912, on a large open field at what was then the southern edge of Reno. Mount Rose School served the southwest quadrant of Reno, an area generally known today as the Old Southwest. In 1912, however, it was an up-and-coming neighborhood that was filling up with middle-class bungalows and cottages that spread south from the elite homes along the Truckee River.
Designed by the architect George Ferris, Mount Rose is one of a quartet of Mission-style schools known as the Four Spanish Sisters or the Spanish Quartet. The four schools, McKinley Park (1909), Orvis Ring (1910), Mount Rose (1912), and Mary S. Doten (1912), were laid out in nearly identical fashion in a U plan with a wing housing the auditorium extending off the rear. There were subtle differences among the four schools involving decorative features and architectural elements typical of the Mission style. Mount Rose originally contained 15 classrooms, a kitchen, and two domed towers.
Despite the Great Depression, the population of southwest Reno was growing, creating a demand for additional classrooms at Mount Rose School. In 1938, the school district applied for, and received, a grant from the federal Public Works Administration (PWA) to add classrooms and make other repairs and upgrades. The addition was a separate building that connected to the south end of the main school by a hallway. The new wing was constructed by Robert McCarthy of San Francisco, who employed Mission-style elements, in keeping with the style of the school. The addition, which included two classrooms and a lavatory, was completed in time for the start of the 1939 school year.
In 1977, there was a move by the school district to demolish the old schools. Mary S. Doten had already been torn down, Orvis Ring stood vacant, and McKinley Park housed city recreation offices. Of the original quartet, only Mount Rose continued to serve as a school. A local attorney suggested to the school district that one of the Spanish Quartet be kept in service as a tribute to the beauty and importance of the four Mission-style schools. He also recommended that it be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. The proposal gained the support of the community and school district, and Mount Rose School was listed in the National Register. Now, nearly 40 years later, the Old Southwest is one of Reno’s most desirable historic neighborhoods, and Mount Rose School continues to serve its families as both a school and a beloved landmark.