Schools and Education

During its first few decades, Reno was justifiably proud of the schools and libraries that served its growing population. The town's schools were often at the vanguard of its architectural accomplishments, incorporating beauty and technological advancements with the latest thinking in how structural design could enhance learning. Over time, some of Reno's most dedicated educational leaders have been honored in the names given to the schools they helped establish, or to subsequent institutions of learning.

Reno’s first public instruction was held in the basement of the Alhambra Hall, on a site later occupied by the Mapes Hotel. The small wood frame Riverside school was then built on Front Street (at the corner of what is now First and Sierra Streets) in 1869. Ten years later, a large brick building, the Central School, was built on West Street between 4th and 5th to serve grades 1-12, and was demolished in 1911 when the first Reno High School was built on the site. The new high school was one of five state-of-the-art buildings funded at the time by civic bonds; the other four, built between 1910 and 1912, were the four elementary schools known cumulatively as the “Spanish Quartet." More public schools were soon to follow.

Early Reno was also proud of its fine private and parochial schools, the Bishop Whitaker School for Girls, Mount St. Mary's Academy, and the Eliza Babcock Memorial Kindergarten. Additionally, a public library has been located in downtown Reno since 1904. The University of Nevada, another educational source of pride, moved to Reno in 1885. See Reno Historical’s University of Nevada tour for more information on its history.

Bishop Whitaker's School for Girls (site)

Walking along the paths that cross today's Whitaker Park can provide a sense of the grounds on which Bishop Whitaker’s School for Girls stood from 1879 through 1894. Ozi W. Whitaker was the Episcopal Bishop of Nevada from his arrival during…

Carnegie Free Public Library (site)

Attempts to establish public libraries in Reno began in the 1880s, but funding them proved to be problematic. In 1901, after numerous attempts to secure taxes for libraries, State Assemblyman Frank Norcross of Reno wrote to the millionaire steel…

B.D. Billinghurst House

Reno’s longtime superintendent of schools, Benson Dillon Billinghurst, built this lovely bungalow around 1910. It sat across the street from the Orvis Ring Grammar School, one of four Mission-style schools built between 1909 and 1912 that reflected…

McKinley Park School

Designed by the local architect George Ferris in 1909, the McKinley Park School was the first to be constructed of the so-called "Spanish Quartet," four single-story Mission Revival style schools built in Reno in the early 20th century. The…

Orvis Ring School (site)

Orvis Ring Grammar School, in Reno’s northeast quadrant, was the second in the quartet of Mission-style schools built between 1909 and 1912. Orvis Ring opened for students in the spring semester of 1910. The school was located on Evans Avenue…

Mount Rose Elementary School

The Mount Rose Elementary School was constructed in 1912, on a large open field at what was then the southern edge of Reno. Mount Rose School served the southwest quadrant of Reno, an area generally known today as the Old Southwest. In 1912, however,…

Mary S. Doten School (site)

The Mary S. Doten Elementary School was built in 1912. One of the four Mission-style schools known as the Four Spanish Sisters or the Spanish Quartet, Mary S. Doten was similar in style to Mount Rose School on Lander Street, which remains in use as a…

St. Thomas Aquinas School

The parochial grade school at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church was built in 1931, the year Reno was designated its own Diocese and the church was upgraded to a Cathedral. The school and a possible new parish house had been under consideration in…

Southside School Annex

The Southside School Annex was built in 1936 through a grant provided by the Public Works Administration (PWA), one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs initiated during the Great Depression. The Southside School had been built in…

Veterans Memorial School

Built in 1949, Veterans Memorial School was one of the first schools constructed in the state after World War II, and was named in honor of those who had served. Its construction came in direct response to Reno’s growth; the city’s population…

Reno High School

As soon as World War II ended and building materials became more plentiful again, it became clear that Reno’s schools were in need of updating and certainly expansion. In 1945, the Reno School District had originally planned to remodel the existing…

Washoe County Library

After the demolition of the Carnegie Free Public Library, the Reno branch of the Washoe County Library was housed in the Nevada State Building, which by the mid-1960s, was slated for demolition to make room for the Pioneer Theater and Auditorium. The…