El Reno Apartment Home

The small house at 711 Mt. Rose Street is an original unit of the El Reno Apartments (see separate entry), which were constructed in 1937 at 1307 South Virginia Street. It was moved to this property, which was owned by Andrew B. and Margaret M. Christensen, by 1953, when the address appears for the first time in the Reno City Directory.

The Christensens, who lived in the house next door at 707 Mt. Rose Street (see separate entry), likely continued the little house's original use as a rental unit, as Eleanor and Walter Moore are listed at the address between 1953 and 1955. Mr. Moore was the Federal Housing Authority's (FHA) Chief Appraiser throughout the 1950s in Reno. The use of the house as a rental property reflects a larger development trend in this neighborhood, the main residences of which tend to share lots with smaller mother-in-law units that are rented out.

Fifteen of these units were originally installed on South Virginia Street by Roland "Joe" Giroux, who hoped to capitalize on the need for short-term housing in the area due largely to the Nevada legislature's approval of the six-week divorce in 1931. The prefabricated houses were designed by renowned architect Paul Revere Williams, who was hired by steel manufacturer W. C. Lea, Inc. to design a modern, efficient home that could be shipped and built on-site using the company's prefabricated steel panels. Williams submitted his drawings to the 1936 California House and Garden Exposition as a state-of-the-art three-room house constructed entirely of steel, yet resembling a traditional wood-framed dwelling. After renting them out for several years, Giroux decided to sell off the units individually between 1948 and 1949. Today, thirteen of the original fifteen units are scattered around Reno and exhibit varying degrees of integrity.

Because it has been relocated from its original site, 711 Mt. Rose Street has lost its primary integrity of setting, location, and association to its first period of significance. However, it can be argued that all of the El Reno units have achieved additional significance in the years since they were sold one-by-one and relocated throughout the city. The units were granted a second chance, at least partially by the grace of their state-of-the-art prefabricated design, which allowed them to be easily moved to any empty lot--two of the units even made it across the Truckee River.

Even strewn around the city, the iconic units convey their significance as homes that were manufactured to be easily transported, and were transported a second time as fortunes changed and Reno's social tides turned. This house, along with the other remaining El Renos, has existed at its present location for seven decades, and is significant not only for its history as a unit within the original El Reno complex but also for the extraordinary circumstances of its relocation to its current parcel. It was added to the City of Reno's Register of Historic Places in 2016.

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711 Mt. Rose Street, Reno, Nevada