The Reno Southern Pacific Railroad Depot was completed in 1926. It was the fifth Reno depot since 1868, the first four having burned down. Constructed of brick with a stucco finish, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2012 in recognition of the important role it played in Reno's historical development from its founding as a small railroad stop in 1868 to its status as the Biggest Little City in the World.
The depot was built by Ryberg-Sorenson, Inc., a construction firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, following plans drawn by Southern Pacific architects. Though relatively small, Reno's depot reflects the Mediterranean style through architectural elements such as semi-circular arch-shaped openings, a red tile roof, a stucco exterior finish, and swag or garland motifs set within recessed panels. The waiting room with its inset ceiling and elegant pendant light fixtures is a highlight of the building.
The depot played a major dramatic role in the ebbs and flows of life in Reno, the destination for thousands of people seeking to take advantage of the state's relaxed divorce and gambling laws throughout the first half of the twentieth century. In the 1930 film simply titled Reno, a man who is asked what he is doing at the depot wittily replies, "Watching the tied come in and the untied go out." Early in the 1961 film, The Misfits, Clark Gable's cowboy character, Gay, bids an impatient farewell to a tearful new divorcee at the depot as she boards the train to return home.
With the exception of the addition that was constructed during the Reno ReTRAC project, which lowered the two miles of railroad tracks in the downtown area below ground level in 2005, the building remains much as it was in 1926.
Reno’s 1908 WCTU drinking fountain, originally located on Virginia Street two blocks to the west, can now be found on the track level inside the new section of the Amtrak Depot. The fountain was dedicated to the veterans of the Spanish-American War by the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and the American Red Cross.