The Architecture of Paul Revere Williams

Paul Revere Williams (1894-1980) is widely recognized as one of the most significant African American architects of the 20th Century.

Over five decades, he produced nearly 3,000 designs for buildings ranging from the grandest private mansions for the Hollywood elite to wartime worker housing. His portfolio included hotels, churches, recreational facilities, and more. In 2017, he was posthumously awarded the highest annual honor granted by the American Institute of Architects, the Gold Medal.

Williams was already an established success in 1934 when he was commissioned to design his first structure in the state of Nevada, a private residence on Reno's California Avenue for wealthy southern California transplant Luella Garvey. A second residence for another group of Southern California multi-millionaires soon followed with the 1936 Herman House at the private Rancho San Rafael ranch, now a regional park.

Williams' final two confirmed designs in Reno include the El Reno Apartments, which were constructed from plans authored by Williams in 1936, and the First Church of Christ Scientist on Riverside Avenue, which opened in 1939. While long credited with designing the Loomis Manor Apartment building on Riverside Avenue, recent scholarship indicates that he was not responsible for its design.

Williams designed several other structures in Nevada in the following decades, including several associated with multi-millionaire E.L. Cord in Dyer and Lovelock, and a variety of projects in the Las Vegas area.

This tour takes a look at the four confirmed Williams designs in Reno, and will be continuously updated as research into his Nevada work continues.

Luella Garvey House

In 1934, Luella Rhodes Garvey commissioned the African American architect Paul Revere Williams to design the most expensive house ever built in Reno up to that time, on a parcel in its most fashionable neighborhood. Williams had already earned the…

Herman House

The Herman House in what is now Rancho San Rafael Regional Park was the second structure in Nevada to be designed by renowned Los Angeles-based architect Paul Revere Williams. It was designed and constructed in 1936, just months after the ranch was…

El Reno Apartments (original site)

In 1936, the architect Paul Revere Williams, who had completed at least two commissions in Reno by that time, designed two houses for the illustrious California House and Garden Exhibition. One was a French cottage, and the other was a three-room…

El Reno Apartment Home

The small house at 711 Mt. Rose Street is an original unit of the El Reno Apartments (see separate entry), which were constructed in 1937 at 1307 South Virginia Street. It was moved to this property, which was owned by Andrew B. and Margaret M.…

First Church of Christ, Scientist

In a town traditionally known for “sinful” institutions, it should not go unnoticed that between 1870 and 1950, downtown Reno had a total of 24 churches. The First Church of Christ, Scientist, which began with a congregation of just four members, was…