The little white schoolhouse near the entrance to Bartley Ranch Regional Park in southwest Reno fits so snugly into the surrounding landscape that one might assume it has always been there. But it was in fact originally located two miles east on South Virginia Street, just north of Huffaker Lane.
The school was built in 1867 to serve the small community of Huffaker’s, which predated both Reno and Sparks. Huffaker’s was one of the largest of many population centers that dotted the Truckee Meadows in the years before Nevada statehood. The community was named for Granville W. Huffaker, who settled the area in 1858—one year before prospectors discovered the Comstock Lode, centered in nearby Virginia City. Huffaker started ranching along Thomas Creek, six miles south of the Truckee River. By the time Nevada became a state in 1864, Huffaker’s had 300 residents, a post office, hotels, and later, its own stop on the Virginia & Truckee Railroad.
Granville Huffaker deeded one acre of his property to Huffaker School District No. 9, and in 1867, the school opened. The style is Victorian Greek Revival, with simplistic National Schoolhouse influences. Originally a single room, an additional room at the rear was added around 1878. So was the belfry, which houses the original school bell, cast of solid brass by the W.T. Garratt Bell & Brass Foundry. It is said that on a clear day, the bell could be heard for miles around, and area farmers would set their clocks by it.
Children of the area’s ranching families, many of them Italian, went to school in this little white schoolhouse. It operated until 1950, when a modern brick replacement was built just next door. That building still stands at 7495 South Virginia Street, serving today as Washoe County School District offices. In 1992, the original school was moved two miles west to Bartley Ranch Regional Park, very close to the current Huffaker Elementary School, which was constructed in 1990. It is now used for meetings, weddings, performances, and special events.
The community of Huffaker’s has long since been swallowed up by the city of Reno, but it lives on in the names of its contemporary and historic schools, Huffaker Park, Huffaker Lane, and the surrounding Huffaker Hills.