Filed Under Divorce

Nortonia Boarding House

The lovely turn-of-the-century Queen Anne house was popular among Reno's divorce-seekers.

The Nortonia Boarding House was built as a single family residence around 1900. It is an excellent example of the Queen Anne style of architecture popular at the end of the nineteenth century. The circular two-story porch with balustrade is an unusual architectural feature for a Reno Queen Anne, while the rounded bay detail appears on buildings elsewhere in town, suggesting it was a trademark of a local builder.

A man named Norton purchased the house around 1906 and divided it into three flats. By August 1909, the property had been named The Nortonia Apartment House and was being advertised as “ Newly furnished, steam heated, electric light, all modern, also single rooms by day, week, or month. Everything first class. S. M. Henley, Manager.”

The demand for rentals was on the rise by 1909, which was the year Munsey’s, a popular magazine of the day, acknowledged that Reno was “the nation’s new divorce headquarters.” Locally known as the Divorce Colony, participant divorce-seekers were in need of housing, at that time, for a full six months. No doubt to garner some of that business, the owner of The Nortonia built a rectangular building with eight apartments to the east of the Queen Anne. The two were connected by a covered passage. The eight-unit building was numbered 140 Ridge Street. Both 150 and 140 Ridge Street served the divorce trade long after the residency period had been shortened to six weeks.

At some point after the 1960s, the eight-unit apartment building was demolished. The Queen Anne stands today in all her glory, serving as law offices.


A typical boarding house for divorce-seekers
A typical boarding house for divorce-seekers The Nortonia Boarding House was one of the first of its kind to be recognized for its historical association with Reno's famous divorce trade. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Source: National Register of Historic Places nomination form, Nortonia Boarding House Creator: Paula Boghosian Date: 1982
Boarding house turned law office
Boarding house turned law office The Nortonia was well maintained and in 2002 housed law offices. Creator: Max Chapman Date: 2002
An attic apartment
An attic apartment In order to make more space for divorce-seekers, the attic was converted into an apartment with a separate entrance cut into the dormer. Creator: Mella Rothwell Harmon


150 Ridge Street, Reno, NV


Mella Rothwell Harmon, “Nortonia Boarding House,” Reno Historical, accessed May 24, 2024,