Mansions on the Bluff

This captivating enclave close to Reno’s downtown is probably the city’s best-kept secret. The title also is the name of one of the most popular walks sponsored by the Historic Reno Preservation Society (HRPS) during the months of May, June and July each year. The residences in this relatively small neighborhood include the homes of three former U.S. Senators, prominent attorneys, local merchants, renowned doctors, and more—in short, the movers and shakers who helped to make Reno the Biggest Little City in the World.

One man can be credited with causing this area to become what it was and is today. Francis Griffith Newlands was a young attorney living with his wife (the former) Clara Adelaide Sharon and practicing law in San Francisco. Prior to his death in 1885 Clara’s father, William Sharon of Virginia City, had appointed Francis as general counsel of his business ventures.

In 1888 Francis Newlands married his second spouse (the former) Edith McAllister, daughter of the dean of the San Francisco Bar. Shortly thereafter they relocated to Reno where he professionally attended to managing the Sharon estate. Prior to that move Francis Newlands had established a Reno real estate company and purchased a 600-acre tract of land from Jane Lake, the divorced spouse of Myron Lake (Reno’s founder) that ran from Court Street up onto California Street at the top of the bluff. Construction of their 6,851-square foot house (see entry for the Senator Francis G. Newlands House) started in 1887.

In 1895 Newlands advertised his first subdivision of Riverside Estates in the Nevada State Journal mentioning lots for sale adjoining the residences of F.G. Newlands, A.H. Manning and the late M.D. Foley, the location being the healthiest and most pleasant in Reno, with fine views and dry, clean streets in winter. Eight years later in 1903 Francis Newlands formed the Newlands Company with local businessmen Oscar J. Smith, W.A. Massey and N.W. Rolf; the company acted as the umbrella corporation and oversaw the neighborhood’s development from 1903 into the 1940s. Francis Newlands correctly predicted the popularity of the bluff for development. The acreage accommodated a robust building boom of upscale homes on estate-sized lots in the Newlands Heights (originally Rio Vista Heights) subdivision.

[Note: This tour is currently under development and will be updated frequently!]

Gibbons/McCarran House

The Gibbons/McCarran House, often called the McCarran Mansion, sits prominently on Arlington Avenue and serves as a gateway to a row of fine homes along Court Street. A long-time myth about the house takes us back to Hollywood screen stars and the…

French/Cooke House

The French/Cooke House, now owned by the Cooke family's third generation, tells the intertwined story of two attorneys who came to Nevada from very different parts of the country at the height of the state’s mining boom and later became…

Price House

This was the longtime home and law office of attorney Robert M. Price, who moved to Reno with his wife, Jennie, in 1904. Practicing first with the firm of Cheney, Massey, and Smith, Price quickly became an active member of the community. He was a…

Gray House

This house was the residence of Joseph H. Gray, Jr., said to have been the first white child born in Truckee, California. The year was 1868, five years after his father, Joseph H. Gray, Sr., a lumber mill operator, had constructed the first cabin in…

Senator Francis G. Newlands House, NHL

Francis Newlands built his large home on Elm Court in 1890, two years after moving to Reno from San Francisco with his second wife, Edith McAllister. Newlands’ first wife, Clara, was the daughter of Comstock mining and banking magnate William…

Payne House

Esteemed Reno architect Edward Parsons designed the house at 745 California Avenue in 1941 for Frank R. Payne and his new wife, Hazel. Mr. Payne was a retired executive for the J.C. Penney organization who had moved to Reno with his first wife,…

George S. Nixon Mansion

This impressive Newlands Heights home was finished in 1907 as a statement piece for U.S. Senator George S. Nixon, who was elected in 1905 by the Nevada State Legislature. Nixon was born on a farm near Newcastle, California, in 1860. At the ago of…