Southern Pacific Railroad Freight House

The Southern Pacific Railroad Freight House was built in 1931, replacing a smaller wood-frame structure that had outgrown its usefulness and blocked a major thoroughfare. Despite the economic problems of the Great Depression, freight traffic through Reno was so brisk that both the SPRR and the Western Pacific Railroad, on East Fourth Street, were undertaking expanded freight facilities in early 1931.

In January of that year, the SPRR filed plans and specifications for the two-story Art Moderne-style freight house and accompanying sheds to be built on the south side of the railroad tracks east of the Railway Express Station. The new freight house included offices and an indoor freight storage space encompassing more than 9,000 square feet. Extending east of the concrete building was a 380-foot-long covered loading and unloading platform.

In addition to an attractive new railroad building, the construction of the new freight house allowed for the demolition of the old sheds that blocked Center Street, effectively cutting off development on the north side of the tracks. The local press had been calling for the removal of the sheds since at least 1907, and the SPRR had been making promises to do so for nearly as long. Finally, at the end of August 1931, the railroad announced it would abandon the old sheds, so work connecting Center Street with University Avenue could proceed. The move proved to spur the local economy, which had gotten a boost that year from the state legislature through the re-legalization of gambling and the lowering of the divorce residency period from three months to six weeks. As an additional bonus, the Center Street-University Avenue connection opened up the formal gateway to the University of Nevada.

By 1970, America’s passenger and freight railroads were suffering financially. Both tourists and freight were arriving in Reno by highway instead of rail. In response, the S.P.R.R. demolished the freight sheds and sold the Freight House. As was the case with the Railway Express Depot, the Freight House was converted to commercial use. In 2009, it became the namesake and focal point for the new Freight House District surrounding the Reno Aces Ballpark, which opened that year.

Images

City of San Francisco, 1936

City of San Francisco, 1936

The arrival in 1936 of the streamliner City of San Francisco on its maiden run drew a crowd. The Freight House is visible in the background. Image courtesy of Jerry Fenwick View File Details Page

No more freight, 1970

No more freight, 1970

The SP Freight House was a busy place until 1970 when rail business fell off and the building was sold. Image courtesy of DeGolyer Library View File Details Page

2002

2002

In the early 2000s, the ReTRAC Project that lowered the railroad tracks below grade through downtown Reno got underway. The relationship of the tracks to the historic railroad buildings would change dramatically. Photo by Max Chapman View File Details Page

Rug company, 2002

Rug company, 2002

For a time, the Freight House was home to an antique store and an oriental rug company. The business vacated the building in advance of the ReTRAC Project. Photo by Max Chapman View File Details Page

Freight Sheds, 2002

Freight Sheds, 2002

In this view, the remaining freight sheds still exist. With the building vacant, the enclosed platforms became public nuisances and were demolished. Photo by Max Chapman View File Details Page

Freight House District, 2012

Freight House District, 2012

The Freight House was given new life when it became the focal point of the Freight House District, housing bars and restaurants next door to Reno's Aces Baseball Park. Photo courtesy of reno.mlblogs.com View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Mella Harmon, “Southern Pacific Railroad Freight House,” Reno Historical, accessed June 26, 2017, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/56.

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