Filed Under Education

Reno High School

Modern in every respect, the new high school opened in 1951.

As soon as World War II ended and building materials became more plentiful again, it became clear that Reno’s schools were in need of updating and certainly expansion. In 1945, the Reno School District had originally planned to remodel the existing high school on West Street, but instead the Board of Trustees voted to engage the architect Lehman Ferris to draw plans for a new high school. Lehman, known as Monk, was the son of George Ferris, the architect who had created the four Reno elementary schools known as the Four Spanish Sisters between 1909 and 1912. Fortuitous for both Ferris and Reno, a young architect from New York named Graham Erskine had come to Reno for a divorce in 1946 and had signed on to work with Ferris while he waited out his six-week residency period. Erskine, who had a degree from Columbia College and had studied architecture in Rome, was put to work on the designs for the high school. After his divorce was final, Erskine decided to remain in Reno and partner with Ferris.

For the new school built in the early 1950's, the district purchased a 51-acre site near Idlewild Park and Reno’s first tract-housing development, Westfield Village. Construction started in 1949 and took two years to complete, opening for the fall semester of 1951. The school, which cost more than $3 million, was modern in every respect. Encompassing 216,000 square feet over five acres, the long, low building was fire proof and seismically sound, built of structural steel, brick, and glass. The layout allowed for future expansion and provided spaces for community use.

Also modern in terms of meeting the needs of students, classrooms for vocational programs were fitted out with the latest in technical and homemaking equipment. At the time, the school district recognized that 80 percent of the high school’s student body had no plans to attend college and by stressing vocational education students were ensured an adequate cultural background to enable them to understand and perform the duties of citizenship and adequate skills to earn a living. Reno High School also offered the highest level of academic courses, and provided up-to-date gymnasium and sports facilities. The new Reno High School graduated its first class in 1952.

Reno High School is still in use today, although it has been joined by multiple traditional high schools and alternative or charter schools serving high school-age students.

Video

Architect's photos of the new Reno High School A selection of photographs showcasing various rooms in the new Reno High School, ca. 1951. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1951

Images

Reno High School, 2002
Reno High School, 2002 Generations of students have now passed through this entrance to Reno High School. Creator: Max Chapman Date: 2002
Reno High School, 2002
Reno High School, 2002 Now more than 50 years old, Reno High School continues to serve its student body and faculty well. Creator: Max Chapman Date: 2002
Reno's first high school
Reno's first high school The Central School, built in 1879-1880 on West Street between 4th and 5th served as both a grade school and a high school. Beginning with four classrooms, an addition doubled the number of classrooms, and later those classrooms were subdivided, and "gloomy rooms with low ceilings" were carved out of the basement for the high school chemistry and physics classes, until 20 stoves were required to heat all the rooms. It was demolished in 1911 when a new high school was built on the site. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1900
Reno's second high school
Reno's second high school Two bond elections in 1908 and 1910 financed five new schools built in the Spanish style--four grade schools and a high school, shown here. Built on West Street between 4th and 5th Streets in 1912 for 500 students, it cost $140,000. It was nationally recognized as a state-of-the-art facility, with evaporative cooling, central heating, and well equipped classrooms for "industrial work." After the current high school was built it became Central Junior High School, and was later demolished (1967). Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1912
Reno High School, 1920s
Reno High School, 1920s The high school built in 1912 was regarded with pride by the Reno citizens who voted to fund it. Its image was featured on several postcards. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1920s
Graham Erskine, architect
Graham Erskine, architect A 1954 portrait of Graham Erskine, the architect of the current Reno High School. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Creator: Gus Bundy Date: 1954
Aerial view of the newest Reno High School
Aerial view of the newest Reno High School The unfinished area at the top of the photo to the west of the football field was intended for a full size baseball diamond with spectator stands. The "R" was put in by the students but it can only be seen from the air. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
Clean lines
Clean lines The exterior sweep of brick, tile, and glass reflected the architectural aesthetic of the early 1950s, accentuated in the perspective of this photo from the architect's collection. Awnings were added later. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
Central Heating
Central Heating Huge furnaces were required to heat the 216,000-square-foot Reno High School, which opened in 1951. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
Natural light
Natural light Plenty of windows provided natural light for the Reno High art classroom. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
Skylight
Skylight Bold features were included in the building design, such as this large skylight in the lobby. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries

Location

395 Booth Street, Reno, NV

Metadata

Mella Rothwell Harmon, “Reno High School,” Reno Historical, accessed July 19, 2024, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/59.