Herman House

This site is part of the Architecture of Paul Revere Williams tour. Visit the Tours page for the tour introduction and a complete list of sites.

The Herman House in what is now Rancho San Rafael Regional Park was the second structure in Nevada to be designed by renowned Los Angeles-based architect Paul Revere Williams.

It was designed and constructed in 1936, just months after the ranch was purchased by three members of the Herman family: Raphael Herman, his brother Norman Herman, and Norman's wife, Mariana. The ranch was a working ranch at the time. Originally developed by the Pincolini family in the 1890s, it had been purchased by Russell Jensen, who ran cattle on the more than 300-acre property, which was then outside of Reno city limits. The Hermans renamed it Rancho San Rafael, apparently taking on the Spanish spelling of Raphael's first name.

The Hermans had likely met Williams in the Los Angeles area, where they all lived. Williams was an accomplished and renowned architect by the time, with a large staff and a track record of designing large and elegant homes for many wealthy and prominent residents of Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and surrounding affluent neighborhoods. He had reached the highest levels of success in spite of the persistent racial prejudice and discrimination he faced due to his African American ancestry.

The Hermans were all immigrants: brothers Norman and Raphael were from Germany, and had made significant fortunes in various manufacturing industries, while Mariana, who was from Austria Hungary, had appeared in several Hollywood silent films in the early 1920s.

The Hermans no doubt purchased the ranch in order to establish Nevada residency, although they only visited sporadically. The tactic was common among wealthy Californians in the 1930s and 1940s, who found it convenient and financially expedient to take advantage of Nevada's favorable tax laws. The state of Nevada not only tolerated this practice, but encouraged it, as a method of attracting outside money to the state.

The house itself, designed in a Classical Revival style, is larger than it appears on the outside, with eighteen room capable of housing the Hermans and the full staff they brought with them whenever visiting. Caretakers who lived in an adjacent house took care of the property, which remained a working ranch for decades.

Raphael Herman died in 1946 and Norman in 1960. Mariana continued to visit the property for several years, finally selling it to the state's Public Employees Retirement System in 1979, in a deal that then allowed them to transfer it to Washoe County, which rents out the Herman House for special events and runs the rest of the park as Rancho San Rafael Regional Park.

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1595 N Sierra St, Reno, NV 89503