Filed Under Businesses

E.C. Lyons Building

Built for the Odd Fellows in 1908, the five-story building lost its two top floors in a 1945 fire.

For years, a Chinese laundry owned by Sue Wah (widely known as "Tom") stood at the corner of Center and Second Streets. Once considered well away from the town’s business district, the site became increasingly desirable in the first decade of the twentieth century, as the mining booms in Tonopah and Goldfield brought new wealth and business activity to Reno. Between 1900 and 1910 alone, Reno saw the construction of a new City Hall, Masonic Temple, Virginia Street Bridge, Riverside Hotel, Gazette Building, and Post Office, all south of Second Street.

In 1906, the fraternal order known as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, or IOOF, purchased the lot from Sue Wah for what was then the sizable sum of $15,000, and over the course of the next few years, planned a new building that kept increasing in size, from three stories to four, and eventually, to five. At the time of its dedication, on June 16, 1908, it was one of the most imposing structures in the city, with distinctive round windows running the length of the entire top floor. The prime corner location on the ground floor was occupied by the Farmers & Merchants Bank, with other storefronts housing a furniture store and other businesses. The upper floors contained lodge rooms for the Odd Fellows and offices for organizations including the Reno Commercial Club.

In 1928, a prominent Oakland businessman named E.C. Lyon purchased the building as a business investment, while the Odd Fellows moved to a new home on Sierra Street. The Lyon Building went through several changes of ownership over the next decade. In 1941, then-owners Norman Biltz and Dr. T.L. Chase financed a major “streamlining” of the building that altered much of its original appearance. They covered the heavy granite columns on the first floor with cement, removed the cornice above the first floor, and stained the brick to create the effect of pillars continuing to the roof.

On November 14, 1945, disaster struck when a fire broke out in the fifth-floor office of the Nevada Leathercraft Company, a leather manufacturer. Due to delays caused by a lack of manpower and equipment, as well as traffic congestion, the fire raged through the building’s fourth and fifth floors for more than two hours, leaving the building without a roof. After first contemplating demolition of the entire building, structural engineers determined that the majority of it could remain standing if the top two floors were removed.

In 1947, the now three-story building was purchased by Eugene M. Rosen and John S. Sinair, who remodeled it with plans drawn up by the architecture firm of Blanchard, Maher & Lockard, and renamed it the Professional Building. Its fifty upstairs offices were soon leased, with the ground floor occupied by the Gordon-Shetler jewelry and souvenir store, the Bingo Center, and the Center Club, which offered gaming, liquor, and lunches. It has housed a variety of businesses ever since.

Images

Odd Fellows Building, ca. 1908
Odd Fellows Building, ca. 1908 Upon its opening, the new Odd Fellows Building was one of the largest structures in Reno, a testament to the city's new role as the state's banking and commercial center. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1908
Changing Hands, 1928
Changing Hands, 1928 The building changed hands several times in the 1920s. The acquisition of the building in 1928 by E.C. Lyons gave the structure a new name. The prominent corner spot was at the time occupied by the Scheeline Banking and Trust Company. Source: Reno Evening Gazette Date: December 22, 1928
Fire, 1945
Fire, 1945 A devastating fire destroyed the building's top two floors in 1945. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1945
Watching the fire, 1945
Watching the fire, 1945 Crowds gather to watch flames consume the top half of the building in 1945. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1945
A Different Appearance
A Different Appearance Today the building appears markedly different from its original condition. Two floors shorter with fewer architectural details, it now stands directly north of the Cal-Neva Parking Garage, which connects via a walkway to the Club-Cal Nevada on the opposite side of Center Street. Creator: Alicia Barber Date: 2019

Location

190 N. Center Street, Reno, NV

Metadata

Alicia Barber, “E.C. Lyons Building,” Reno Historical, accessed May 24, 2024, https://renohistorical.org/items/show/196.