The development of the Farris Motel tells a tale of early automobile tourism and entrepreneurialism along East Fourth Street. The entire area was parceled off as the “Kappler’s Addition” to Reno in 1906, two years after streetcar service had been established between Reno and the fledgling town of Sparks. The tracks of the Reno Transit Company ran along the southern edge of the property, suggesting Charles Kappler’s lofty aspirations for founding a lucrative streetcar suburb.
Division of the property into residential lots never transpired, however, and motor traffic was sparse until the Federal Aid-Road Act passed in 1916. With the infusion of federal funds accompanying the formation of Nevada’s highway department the following year, the road to Sparks was paved in concrete, making auto travel more convenient, and suggesting new opportunities for the land.
In 1921, Julius Redelius purchased the Kappler’s Addition, had it converted back to acreage, and founded the Twin City Poultry Farm, where he raised and sold chickens, eggs, vegetables, apples, and even honey. By 1924, he installed a gas pump and opened the Twin City Service Station, which offered gas, mechanical service, and tire sales to those traveling along the Lincoln Highway.
Recognizing those same travelers’ needs for lodging, and by now a savvy businessman, Redelius carved out some of his land to open an auto camp he dubbed The Grove. The term “auto camp” generally referred to a place providing flat pads for motorists to set up tents alongside their cars, but by 1930, Redelius was advertising full-fledged cabins. Changing its name from the Shady Grove Auto Camp to the Shady Grove Auto Court in the mid-1940s may have reflected ongoing improvements to the facilities, which by then included private toilets, kitchenettes, and oil heat.
Briefly called the Shady Grove Motel in 1946, the property was purchased, renovated, and renamed by Robert B. Farris, who spent an additional $25,000 on construction in 1950. Throughout the fifties, Farris offered apartment rentals by the day, week, or month, extending a special welcome to divorcees.
Like many of its surrounding motel properties, the Farris Motel catered less and less to tourists after the completion of Interstate 80 through Reno and Sparks in the mid-1970s. The architecture, however, remains remarkably intact, characterized by charming red tile roofs, striped awnings, and a unique stacked tower over the office entrance.