The Reno Mercantile/Masonic Lodge No. 13 building, at 98 W. Commercial Row, is the oldest standing commercial structure in Reno. The lodge was chartered by Nevada’s Grand Lodge in Virginia City in 1869, and for the first few years the members met in variety of locales. In keeping with Masonic practice, the group placed the cornerstone of their own building on October 15, 1872. S. F. Hoole supervised construction of the building that housed a grocery and dry goods store on the ground floor and the Masonic Lodge on the top floor. The windows on the second story were filled in to protect the secrecy of the Masons' rituals.
Built at a cost of $11,500, the 34-by-75-foot building was expanded by an additional 25 feet in 1881 by the local builders George Troy and Peter Burke. The commercial business on the first floor provided income for the lodge. The first tenants were James Hagerman and former State Treasurer Jerry Schooling, who marketed groceries, hardware, and crockery. The produce and groceries firm of Gallatin and Folsom took over in 1883. In 1895, Reno Mercantile occupied the space, remaining in business at that location for the next seventy-five years.
As Reno grew in size and importance, Masonic Lodge No. 13 played a greater role in Nevada Masonry. Looking to expand their facilities, the Lodge constructed a new building in 1905 on the northwest corner of Virginia Street next to the newly completed Virginia Street Bridge. In 1906, the Masons vacated the old lodge building. Reno Mercantile continued in business until 1970, after which the place was occupied by a succession of commercial businesses including a pawn shop. Most recently, the building served as storage for Fitzgerald’s Casino (the building that has now been renovated into the Whitney Peak Hotel).
The Reno Mercantile/Masonic Lodge No. 13 building has survived two devastating fires in the 1870s, the growth and expansion of downtown, and the recent ReTRAC project that lowered the railroad tracks through town. Currently vacant, Reno’s first Masonic Lodge is waiting to learn what role it will play in the city’s future.