Osen Motor Sales Company
The gorgeous 1923 DeLongchamps building reflects the high status of the early automobile business.
The Osen Motor Sales Company opened its beautiful new Frederic DeLongchamps-designed building at 600 South Virginia Street in 1923, when the neighborhood was still almost entirely residential. It was a bold move for the company, which had operated a showroom and repair shop in downtown Reno for eight years. Its original location was alongside the railroad tracks on Plaza Row, widely known as “Auto Row” for its high concentration of automobile dealers. Many doubted the company could be successful so far from the center of town.
The physical relocation was prompted by two developments: the company’s need for more spacious accommodations and the street’s emerging status as a motor thoroughfare. Upon opening a Reno branch in 1915, the California-based Osen-McFarland Auto Company had exclusively offered Mitchell cars, but it was its second brand, Dodge Brothers, that sent its sales skyward. In short order, George A. Osen moved from the Bay Area to Reno to manage the company his father, George H. Osen, had co-founded, prompting its name change to Osen Motor Sales and its eventual move to South Virginia Street.
The $40,000 building set a new standard for auto sales and service. Its richly decorated exterior surface features both raised and recessed brick from the Reno Pressed Brick Company, rows of bricks laid in horizontal decorative patterns, and ornamented foliated pilaster capitals with medallions of terra cotta. The emblems inside these medallions, resembling a Jewish Star of David, are formed of two interlocking triangles with the interlocked letters D and B, for Dodge Brothers, in the center. The emblem served as the company’s logo through the late 1920s.
Inside, the building oozed with luxury. The expansive sales room was bathed in natural light from large plate glass windows. The ground floor also featured a repair and service shop in the rear, a conference room, private offices, and a stock room. An interior mezzanine level, reached by a stairway from the sales room, contained a reception hall, a ladies’ restroom, and George Osen’s private office.
In 1927, further success prompted the construction of an addition—the southern half of the current building—where the company offered used car sales, a service area, shower and bathroom, and battery store.
Osen got a promotion and moved back to the company's headquarters in San Jose, California in 1929. He returned to Reno several years later, and died in 1944 from complications following injuries sustained while serving overseas. Philip E. Dietz then bought the company, and the building later housed a series of auto dealers including the Dimond Motor Company, Les Schwimley Motors, and Nevada Chrysler Plymouth. No longer offering auto-related services, the building is now devoted to retail, dining, and various other businesses.