St. Thomas Aquinas School

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.

Images

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 View File Details Page

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. Image courtesy of Reno Evening Gazette View File Details Page

St. Thomas Aquinas School children, 1943

St. Thomas Aquinas School children, 1943

Pupils did not yet wear school uniforms. Image courtesy of St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral View File Details Page

First Communion, ca. 1960

First Communion, ca. 1960

St. Thomas Aquinas students at their First Communion. Image courtesy of St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral View File Details Page

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. Photo by George Kerr. Image courtesy of St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral View File Details Page

Crossing guards

Crossing guards

Uniformed students were stationed at all four crosswalks at the corner of West and Arlington. Image courtesy of St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral View File Details Page

8th grade graduation, 1962

8th grade graduation, 1962

Boys and girls were segregated for the St. Thomas Aquinas graduation exercise. Image courtesy of St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral View File Details Page

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. Photo by Max Chapman View File Details Page

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). Photo by Alicia Barber View File Details Page

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. Photo by Donnelyn Curtis View File Details Page

Street Address:

195 North Arlington Ave, Reno, NV [map]

Cite this Page:

Mella Harmon, “St. Thomas Aquinas School,” Reno Historical, accessed June 28, 2017, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/29.

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