University of Nevada

Tour curated by: The Reno Historical Team

The establishment of a State University is specifically provided for in Article XI of Nevada's State Constitution, adopted September 7, 1864--notably, not a typical component of state constitutions. Instruction was to be provided in the disciplines of agriculture, mechanic arts, and mining.

In 1874, the State University of Nevada was founded in Elko. That site proved to be impractical, with most of the state’s residents living in the western part of Nevada, so in 1885, the legislature approved the move of the University to Reno. Land was soon acquired on the bench at the north end of the town, and students were enrolled in the fall of 1887. The first diplomas were awarded in 1891.

Morrill Hall was the first structure built on campus, which originally encompassed ten acres. The building housed the entire university until a dormitory was constructed in 1890 and a machine shop was finished in 1892, built primarily by students. Other buildings soon followed. But the state’s economic decline, with the waning of the bonanza days of mining led to a struggle at the university to build enrollment and gain stature.

Fortunately, Clarence Mackay, the son of John Mackay, one of the successful Comstock silver barons, stepped in as a major benefactor. He funded an athletic field and stadium and several buildings around a quadrangle modeled after Thomas Jefferson’s design at the University of Virginia. The university gained early prominence with its Mackay-funded School of Mines. The elm-lined Quad and the University's original core campus were listed as a Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

Locations for Tour

Morrill Hall was the first building on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. A three-story “Second Empire”-style edifice, the building was constructed in 1885 after the relocation of the University of Nevada from Elko to Reno, a process that…

Lincoln Hall, a two-and-a-half story brick building named for U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, was built in 1895-96 to serve as a men's residence hall. It replaced the men's Rampasture, which had occupied the top floor of the old wooden…

Along with Lincoln Hall and Morrill Hall, Manzanita Hall is one of three remaining buildings on the University of Nevada campus constructed prior to 1900. Like its neighboring dormitory, Lincoln Hall, Manzanita (originally named the girls'…

The Mackay School of Mines set the architectural tone for building design on the University campus between 1908, when it was constructed, and 1941—a time when enrollment increased from fewer than 500 to over 3,000 students. It is named after, and…

Dedicated June 10, 1908, the statue of John Mackay, which stands at the north end of the University of Nevada Quad in front of the Mackay School of Mines, honors the only Comstock mining baron to give back to the state of Nevada. In 1873, while…

The University of Nevada’s historic quad was not an original component of the campus, but has long been recognized as its most picturesque. The expansive space, measuring roughly 200 x 600 feet, was created in conjunction with the construction of…

Mackay Field and Mackay Stadium were made possible through the extensive generosity of Clarence Mackay, son and heir of Comstock silver baron John Mackay. In 1908, the same year that he provided funding for the Mackay School of Mines, the John Mackay…

Manzanita Lake is one of the most iconic landmarks on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. For almost a century, the lake has been the site of public recreation, campus tradition, and a diverse collection of wildlife. Manzanita Lake was…

Although it is a small building, the Jones Center is significant for its role in Nevada education, for its association with its architect, Frederic DeLongchamps, and for its part in the unity of Clarence Mackay's master plan for the University…

Frandsen Humanities, a two-story, rectangular brick building with a classically-inspired limestone façade, began as the University’s first Agriculture Building. Designed in 1917 by Walter O. Lewis, it was built during an enrollment boom for the…

The Thompson Building was built in 1920 to house the University's teacher training program. A two-story, brick building with a classically-inspired facade, this Georgian-style building was designed by Reno architect Frederic DeLongchamps…

Alice McManus Clark was born in Virginia City, Nevada. After she married William A. Clark Jr., the son of a former U.S. Senator who made a fortune in mining and railroad interests (and for whom Clark County, Nevada was named), she established an…

The Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house was built in 1929 on a hill overlooking University Terrace in Reno's West University neighborhood, where a number of other fraternities and sororities are located. It was the first fraternity-built house at…

This building, known originally as the Mackay Science Hall, was constructed to house the Departments of Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physics. These science departments were closely related to the Mackay School of Mines, one of the University’s most…

The Palmer Engineering Building was constructed in 1940-41 to more adequately house the College of Engineering, which had grown rapidly in the preceding decade. Designed by Reno architect Russell Mills and built in the Jeffersonian Revival style…

The Virginia Street Gymnasium was designed in 1938 by Frederic J. DeLongchamps after it was decided that the original gymnasium was no longer large enough to accommodate the University's growing student population. Located on what was then the…

The Fleischmann Atmospherium-Planetarium, later called the Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center, was built in 1963. It was the first atmospherium-planetarium of its kind in the world, with the ability to simulate both day and night conditions…

The J. E. Church Fine Arts Building, designed by world-famous modernist architect Richard Neutra, first opened in the fall of 1960. It was constructed to unite the departments of Speech Communications and Theater, Art, and Music under one modern…