Filed Under Economy

Reno National Bank

Designed by Frederic DeLongchamps, the 1915 Classical Revival bank was built for Nevada powerhouse George Wingfield.

The 1915 Reno National Bank building was designed for George Wingfield by Reno’s pre-eminent architect, Frederic DeLongchamps, to house one of Wingfield's banks, the Reno National Bank. Designed early in DeLongchamps' career, the building is an impressive and exceptional Classical Revival style terra-cotta structure with extensive, low relief sculptural ornamentation and Ionic columns and other Classical elements.

Wingfield had made his mark in the gold booms of Tonopah and Goldfield, and with his partner, U.S. Senator George Nixon, had established a financial and mining empire. In 1908, the two men moved to Reno, where Wingfield invested his money in livestock, hotels, real estate, and a chain of twelve banks. The Reno National Bank was the only financial institution he constructed. In addition, Wingfield maintained his personal offices and headquarters on the building's second floor, widely known as "the cave."

Throughout his prominent years, Wingfield played a very strong and active role in Republican political affairs. Upon the death of Senator George Nixon in 1912, Wingfield not only acquired Nixon's extensive banking interests, but was also offered an appointment to complete his Senatorial term. Wingfield refused this offer, knowing he wielded far more power from behind the scenes than he would in office.

Following the 1929 stock market crash, Wingfield made every effort to support and bolster the troubled local cattle industry. By October of 1932, he had overextended the limits of his banking chain, a "banking holiday" was declared, and his banks were closed. Wingfield was forced into bankruptcy in 1935, recovered in subsequent years, and enjoyed financial, political, and social affluence until his death in 1959.

The building was purchased in December 1935 by the First National Bank in Reno, which developed a close relationship with casino owner Bill Harrah, who located his executive offices on the building's fourth floor. First National later became First Interstate Bank of Nevada. In later years, the building housed a series of restaurants affiliated with Harrah's, including Planet Hollywood and Ichiban. It changed ownership with the sale of Harrah's Reno in early 2020 and its future use remains to be determined. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Images

An architectural gem
An architectural gem The façade of the Reno National Bank building is highlighted by a two-story portico with Ionic columns. The central entrance has a highly ornamented foliated door surround and a heavy cornice with a crowning oval medallion. Source: Nevada Historical Society Date: ca. 1915
Chamber of Commerce
Chamber of Commerce For a time, the bank's entire fourth floor was occupied by the Reno Chamber of Commerce. Its elegant reception room was pictured in a 1920 brochure entitled "Reno, The Gem of the West." Source: Nevada Historical Society Date: 1920
Pillar of the business district
Pillar of the business district An early photo of the bank shows ongoing improvements to Virginia Street as the city moved into the automobile age. Many of the windows are open, to provide ventilation. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
Prominent corner
Prominent corner In the 1920s, the intersection of Second and Virginia Streets was one of the busiest in town. In the foreground can be seen the tracks for the streetcar line that once ran along Second Street. Source: Nevada Historical Society Date: 1921
Bank officers
Bank officers An advertisement appearing in the Reno City Directory lists the bank's officers, including President George Wingfield. The bank operated at its peak through the 1920s, until the stock market crash of 1929. Source: Reno City Directory Date: 1925
Interior
Interior The bank's grand interior is captured in a photograph from approximately 1934 or 1935, a transitional point when Reno National was about to become First National Bank. Source: Nevada Historical Society Date: ca. 1934
New name, new sign
New name, new sign When the institution's name changed from Reno National to First National Bank, the original name, incised into the terra cotta above the columns, was covered by a new, modern sign. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
A changing landscape
A changing landscape Pictured in the mid-1980s, the First Interstate Bank was now surrounded by large casinos, including Harrah's on the left and on the right, Club Cal Neva, located on the south side of Second Street. Source: National Register of Historic Places nomination form Creator: Ron James Date: ca. 1986
First Interstate Bank
First Interstate Bank A photograph taken around the time of the building's nomination to the National Register of Historic Places clearly displays the changing scale of downtown Reno. Once dominating the landscape, the bank was now dwarfed by the soaring hotel tower of Harrah's. Source: National Register of Historic Places nomination form Creator: Ron James Date: ca. 1986
Planet Hollywood
Planet Hollywood For its transformation into a Planet Hollywood restaurant, the building gained large pink-and-green-striped awnings and artificial palm trees. Creator: Max Chapman Date: 2001
Ichiban Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar
Ichiban Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar Functioning in 2013 as a restaurant with a completely renovated interior, the historic Reno National Bank retained its intricate ornamentation and grand aura. The striped canopies added for its former role as Planet Hollywood were partially removed, with the remainder converted to a more neutral beige. Creator: Alicia Barber Date: 2013

Location

206 North Virginia Street, Reno, NV

Metadata

Mella Rothwell Harmon, “Reno National Bank,” Reno Historical, accessed June 20, 2024, https://renohistorical.org/items/show/111.