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!]

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