Filed Under Recreation

Black Springs Community Center

Moved to Black Springs in 1970, the renovated house became an important community hub.

This site is part of the Black Springs tour, a partnership with Our Story, Inc. Visit the Tours page for the tour introduction and complete list of sites.

Black Springs did not have a community center of its own until 1970, when the neighborhood's youth group, P.O.W.E.R. (People Organized to Work for Equal Recognition) took the lead to establish one. The group had been organized in May of 1969. Its officers were Thurman Carthen Jr., President; Keith Carthen, Vice President; and Helen Townsell, Secretary/Treasurer. The Advisory Council consisted of Larry Westbrook, Chairman, and members Anthony Townsell and Debra Lobster. At first, they met at the home of Andy Gordon, a VISTA volunteer who became like a big brother to the neighborhood's kids.

Local developer George A. Probasco had donated 6.3 acres of land to Washoe County for a community center and playground in 1969. With Andy's help, the members of P.O.W.E.R. purchased a house from the State Highway Department (which the agency had obtained through condemnation) in 1970 for $500 and had it moved from the Coney Island area to Black Springs. There, residents and other volunteers undertook the extensive renovation required to turn it into a functional community center. A social science class at the University of Nevada donated new windows.

The park where the building sits was originally known as the Black Springs Community Park. In July of 1970, the president of P.O.W.E.R., Thurman Carthen, asked the Washoe County Board of Commissioners to name the park "after a Black leader," offering as suggestions Hiram Huey, Martin Luther King Jr., and Eldridge Cleaver. The following month the Commission complied, naming it Martin Luther King Memorial Park. To create the playground, the Reno Thrift Club donated swings, and the Reno Arch Lions funded a small merry-go-round, Sierra Paving donated asphalt for a basketball court, and Reno Iron Works provided the basketball hoops.

The Center quickly became the home of a branch of the Head Start program for the neighborhood's preschool children. Black Springs never had its own schools, so school-age children were bused into Reno. In 1972, volunteers secured books to open a library inside the center.

A new community center building was constructed on the site in 1983 and named for Helen and Ollie Westbrook in 2006.


Black Springs or Bust Members of the Black Springs youth group P.O.W.ER. stand in front of the house that they purchased from the State of Nevada in 1970 to serve as a community center for the neighborhood. The house was moved to its new site with a banner reading "Black Springs or Bust." Source: Andy Gordon Date: 1970
Posing in front of the new building Standing in front of their new community center building after it arrives in the neighborhood are Tony Townsell, Jeff Townsell, Jojo Townsell, Thurman Carthen Jr., Keith Carthen, Brady Carthen, Kevin Carthen, Sydney Carthen, and Teddy Gaston. Source: Andy Gordon Date: 1970
On the move The house to be converted into the Black Springs Community Center as it was transported through town in 1970. Source: Andy Gordon Date: 1970
Community renovation The Black Springs community pitched in to renovate the house into a community center. Source: Black Springs Collection, Nevada Historical Society
"Black Spring Community Center" After being moved to its new site, the house was named the Black Springs Community Center. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
Books for Black Springs A newspaper article published in March 1972 highlights new additions to the library located in the Black Springs Community Center. Source: Reno Gazette-Journal Date: March 20, 1972
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park was created as the Black Springs Community Park when George Probasco donated the land to Washoe County in 1969. It was named for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1970. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
The community center in 1991 The Black Springs Community Center in 1991. Under the dome is one of the building's two large community rooms. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1991
Dedication of Westbrook Community Center The community center was officially named after Ollie and Helen Westbrook in 2006. Source: Reno Gazette-Journal Date: October 7, 2006


315 Westbrook Lane, Reno, Nevada


Alicia Barber, “Black Springs Community Center,” Reno Historical, accessed December 3, 2023,