Filed Under Religion

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

Multiple architects designed portions of the church, which was built over a period of 25 years.

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral was built over the course of 25 years bracketing the Great Depression and World War II. The congregation’s history in Reno dates to 1870. The first services were held in a schoolhouse at Sierra and Second streets, but by 1873, the growing congregation had raised enough money to buy the lot on which the school stood, and in December 1875, services were held in the new church building.

By the mid-1920s, Reno was experiencing somewhat of a church building boom and members of Trinity Episcopal had their eyes on a lot on the corner of Island and Rainbow drives on the south side of the Truckee River. Knowing that the process of raising money to acquire the land and build a new church would be a long one, their first step was to move the existing church—lock, stock, and barrel—to a spot near the university so they could sell the land at Second and Sierra. The old church, renamed St. Stephens Chapel, continued to serve the congregation while plans for the new building were underway. St. Stephen’s Chapel was ultimately demolished with the construction of the interstate highway through Reno.

Frederic DeLongchamps, Reno’s foremost architect, drew several designs for the new church, but the initial construction phase called only for the construction of the crypt, the lower level of the church, which was completed in 1929. From 1929 until the end of World War II, the crypt served all church functions for the congregation. In 1944, the congregation began looking to complete construction of the church. Although there were existing plans drawn by DeLongchamps in the 1920s, the congregation brought in the eminent church architect John N. Tilton. Tilton had been a partner in the Chicago architectural firm of Armstrong, Furst, and Tilton, and was presently teaching architecture at Cornell University. Tilton’s Gothic edifice was built atop DeLongchamps' crypt. The formal dedication was held in 1949.

The last piece of Trinity Episcopal’s building plan was the Parish House, which sits on the southern edge of the property. The Parish House, designed by architect Edward Parsons, was built in 1958 of precast tilt-up concrete construction. The panels were welded together using a method that was an innovation in northern Nevada. Other notable additions to the church were a 32-bell carillon in 1972 and a 37-rank Casavant pipe organ dedicated in 1999. Trinity Episcopal offers free organ concerts and recitals featuring local and regional organists.


A riverfront location
A riverfront location Trinity Episcopal Cathedral sits on the south bank of the Truckee River. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
St. Stephens
St. Stephens Originally located at the corner of Second and Sierra streets, Reno's first Episcopal Church moved to Eighth and University (Center Street) while Trinity Episcopal Church was being built. St. Stephens survived as a neighborhood church until it was demolished to make way for Interstate 80. St. Stephens's congregation moved to a new church on West Seventh Street, but attendance declined and it was closed in 2003. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
Underground worship
Underground worship Until the sanctuary was completed in the late 1940s, the congregation worshiped in the crypt, where the choir room is now located. Source: Nevada Historical Society Creator: Mack Photos
Under construction
Under construction Trinity church underwent a long period of construction. Significant progress was made by the late 1940s. Source: Nevada Historical Society Date: 1940s
Near completion
Near completion Trinity Episcopal Church with construction almost completed, 1948 or 1949. Source: Nevada Historical Society Date: ca. 1948
The flood of 1955
The flood of 1955 The location, so close to the river, was disadvantageous in the flood of 1955. Sandbags did not prevent the crypt from being filled with water. The high water marks can still be seen on the interior walls. The 1950 addition to the Riverside Hotel can be seen at the left of the frame. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1955
Sunday School
Sunday School Boys in Sunday School in the 1950s. Source: Nevada Historical Society Date: 1950s
Procession Altar boys leading a procession, ca. 1950s Source: Nevada Historical Society Date: ca. 1950s
Parish House dedication
Parish House dedication Dedication and groundbreaking ceremonies for the Trinity Episcopal Church Parish House were held on September 14, 1958. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: September 14, 1958
Parish House construction
Parish House construction Erecting the walls for the Trinity Episcopal Parish House, ca. 1958. Source: Nevada Historical Society Date: ca. 1958
A majestic church
A majestic church Trinity Episcopal Church on a typical sunny Reno day in 2002. Creator: Max Chapman Date: 2002
On the river
On the river Trinity Episcopal Church in its beautiful setting on the Truckee River in 2003. Creator: Max Chapman Date: 2003
Sanctuary The warm and richly detailed sanctuary of Trinity Episcopal Church. Note the barrel vaulted ceiling. Source: Trinity Episcopal Church


200 Island Drive, Reno, NV


Mella Rothwell Harmon, “Trinity Episcopal Cathedral,” Reno Historical, accessed June 14, 2024,