Filed Under Education

St. Thomas Aquinas School

The parochial grade school at St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral was built in 1931.

The parochial grade school at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church was built in 1931, the year Reno was designated its own Diocese and the church was upgraded to a Cathedral. The school and a possible new parish house had been under consideration in late 1930. For the school, the architect Frederic DeLongchamps designed a rectangular brick-and-terra-cotta structure to be erected at the rear of the church, facing Arlington Avenue. The school encompassed eight classrooms on two floors, a basement, and a playroom. The red brick parish house, also designed by DeLongchamps, was placed to the west of the church where an existing parish house stood. The Reno construction firm of J. C. Dillard began work on both buildings in February 1931 at a combined cost of $78,000.

The cornerstone for the school was placed on Sunday, April 26, 1931 in the presence of a large number of visiting clergy and a confirmation class of more than 80 children. A metal box containing church records, a history of the school, and other documents was enclosed in the cornerstone.

The school was complete and ready for the fall 1931 school year. It was formally dedicated on Sunday, October 11, 1931, by Reno’s newly installed Bishop Gorman. Many dignitaries were present, including Reno Superintendent of Schools B. D. Billinghurst, and the students marched in procession from the school yard to the entrance.

St. Thomas Aquinas School served Reno’s Catholic community for many years, but as the community grew and spread into the suburbs, so did the need for parochial education outside of the downtown core. The school closed at the end of the school year in 1969, due to "decreasing school enrollment, poor location and a national shortage of sisters to act as teachers" according to the Nevada State Journal. The building has hosted several organizations after that. The Reno Diocese offers Catholic education at five schools in Reno, including Bishop Manogue High School, Little Flower School, Our Lady of the Snows School, St. Albert the Great School, and the Holy Child Early Learning Center. Today the St. Thomas Aquinas School building serves as a school once again -- the Honors Academy of Literature, a public charter school established in 2012.


Third graders, ca. 1957
Third graders, ca. 1957 On the back of the photo is written "3rd grade St. Thomas. I, George Kerr III am circled" (4th from left in the middle row). The boys seen through the upstairs window to the left of the door were not allowed to be in the class photo due to bad behavior. Source: St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral Creator: George Kerr Date: ca. 1957
St. Thomas Aquinas School children, 1943
St. Thomas Aquinas School children, 1943 In 1943, the pupils did not yet wear school uniforms. Source: St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral Date: 1943
Architect's rendering
Architect's rendering An update in the Reno Evening Gazette on March 17, 1931 included a rendering by architect Frederic DeLongchamps of the new parochial school. Image courtesy of Reno Evening Gazette Source: Reno Evening Gazette Creator: Frederic DeLongchamps Date: March 17, 1931
School opening, 1931
School opening, 1931 An article in the August 29, 1931 issue of the Reno Evening Gazette announced that instruction in the new school would begin on September first with four teachers and more than 150 children. Source: Reno Evening Gazette Date: August 29, 1931
First Communion, ca. 1960
First Communion, ca. 1960 St. Thomas Aquinas students at their First Communion. Source: St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral Date: ca. 1960
Crossing guards
Crossing guards Uniformed students were stationed at all four crosswalks at the corner of West and Arlington. Source: St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral
8th grade graduation, 1962
8th grade graduation, 1962 Boys and girls were separated for the St. Thomas Aquinas graduation exercise. Source: St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral Date: 1962
School building, 2004
School building, 2004 Pictured here in 2004, the St. Thomas Aquinas school building had taken on other uses for the adjoining Cathedral. Creator: Max Chapman Date: 2004
Portal to the past
Portal to the past Many parochial students walked through this highly ornamented doorway, pictured in 2014, to attend St. Thomas Aquinas School (now kept locked). Creator: Alicia Barber Date: 2014
Portal to the present
Portal to the present The entrance to the Honors Academy of Literature is at the rear of the building, on the west side. Creator: Donnelyn Curtis


195 North Arlington Ave, Reno, NV


Mella Rothwell Harmon, “St. Thomas Aquinas School,” Reno Historical, accessed July 14, 2024,