Attorney Prince Albert Hawkins purchased this plum piece of property from Senator Francis G. Newlands in 1912 and hired architect Elmer Gray of Los Angeles to design his grand family residence at 549 Court Street. Gray also designed and built the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Huntington Library.
Prince Hawkins and his wife, Myrtle, had relocated to Reno from Denver, Colorado, in 1910, when his law firm decided to move west and chose Reno over San Francisco after that city’s 1906 earthquake and fire. Hawkins became very influential in Northern Nevada legal and financial circles in the 1920s and ‘30s and was active in legal Bar Association activities at the local, county, state and national levels.
Myrtle Hawkins was an alumni member of Pi Beta Phi who successfully established the Alpha Chapter of her sorority at the University of Nevada. She was also an active member of the local Presbyterian Church, and was appointed by the Governor to serve on several State commissions. The couple had three sons and two daughters. After attending Stanford University, Stanford Law School, and Harvard Law School, their son, Robert Ziemer Hawkins, returned to Reno in 1927 to practice law with his father through the firm Hawkins, Rhodes and Hawkins.
In 1938, Robert Z. Hawkins married Katherine Mackay, who was the granddaughter of John W. Mackay of Comstock mining fame, and upon Prince Hawkins’ death in 1939, Robert and his new wife took up residency in the family home. He had a smaller replica of the family house constructed across the street, where Myrtle lived until the age of 94. Having gained a considerable fortune, Robert Z. Hawkins decided to leave the bulk of his estate in trust expressly for charitable purposes in perpetuity, and over the past decades, the Robert Z. Hawkins Foundation has had a major impact in northern Nevada.
In 1978, Robert Z. Hawkins sold the house to the Sierra Nevada Museum of Art. The mortgage was held by the Hawkins Foundation, with the museum making regular payments. The Foundation made a series of substantial and generous gifts to the museum to assist with maintenance and building upgrades, eventually gifting back a significant portion of the mortage. After the museum moved to its first building on West Liberty Street in 1989, the Hawkins House underwent a few changes in ownership. Melinda and Dan Gustin purchased it in 1995 and opened it as offices for their design and advertising firm.
The Hawkins House is of the Colonial Revival style consisting of 6,110 square feet plus a 1,300-square-foot finished basement and four bathrooms. Interesting architectural features include the Flemish bond brick exterior construction and large front portico with Ionic columns including rams’ horns, sidelights, and a fanlight. The house reportedly had servants' quarters upstairs, and a substantial butler's pantry, featuring glass-fronted cabinets, that connected the kitchen to the dining room overlooking the Truckee River. The upstairs foyer and one wall of the northwest corner bedroom once featured panels of 19th century French wallpaper that Katherine Mackay Hawkins had brought with her from her father, Clarence Mackay's, home on Long Island.
Magnificent views of the river and downtown Reno can be viewed from large windows on the north and east sides. The house is listed on both the National and State Registers of Historic Places and received the City of Reno’s First Landmark designation.