Litch House

In 1883, a rancher named Andrew Litch (also sometimes spelled Leitch) ran an ad in Reno's Nevada State Journal stating he would pay $3500 for 80 acres with a "good house" on it. At the time, Litch lived in the Susanville/Honey Lake area, in nearby Lassen County, California.

Apparently the ad worked; a few months later, Litch purchased a 72-acre ranch said to be "a mile south of town on the Old Virginia Road" from Alvaro Evans, and soon moved there with his wife, Mary, two daughters (Clara and Minnie) and three sons (Frederick, Thomas, and George). That ranch appears to have extended from around today's Forest Street eastward to the top of the Wonder Street hill, which would have offered the Litch family breathtaking views of their land and the surrounding Truckee Meadows.

It's not entirely clear whether the house now numbered 124 Wonder Street and known for years as the centerpiece of the Silver Peak Brewery was the house that Litch had requested. If it was already on the land when the Litch family arrived, that would make it one of the oldest residential structures still standing in Reno. The home was originally clad in wood shingles and is a "Shingle Style," a subcategory of the Victorian Queen Anne style that was popular from approximately 1880 to 1900. A second home on the property just southwest of the existing structure was used by many family members and presumably torn down in the 1970s to make way for the current parking lot.

Tragedy struck when Andrew Litch's wife, Mary, died of pneumonia in 1893. In 1897, Andrew and Mary's daughter Minnie married a teamster named Isaac Jewell, and they moved into the house. Among other jobs, Isaac delivered Diamond Mineral Springs bottled water in his horse-drawn wagon.

In 1902, Andrew Litch began to make improvements to sections of his expansive ranch, digging a well and suggesting that he might open a sanitarium if he came across enough hot water. Part of the land, on the other side of Virginia Street from the family home, was subdivided into Litch's Addition, which is generally the area south of Mary Street and north of Caliente, between Virginia and Forest Streets. Two of the addition's original streets, Mary and Andrew, were clearly named after Litch family members. The third, "Carrie," may have been, as well. Carrie and Andrew Streets were renamed Watt and Haskell in 1909 to make the subdivision's street names continuous with those on neighboring tracts. The alley just west of Watt Street was named Litch Court in 1925, a nod to the subdivision's founder.

In November of 1906, Litch sold 50 acres of his remaining ranch property just south of the Litch Addition to the Reno Development Company, which combined it with other assembled land to create the Sierra Vista tract. Just weeks later, Andrew Litch died after a sudden bout of pneumonia.

Isaac and Minnie were divorced in 1926, and the house and surrounding property went to Minnie. After a brief second marriage that took her to California and left her a widow, she moved back into the house and lived with various family members until 1955. The family sold the property in 1961. After that, the house was used primary for commercial purposes, including the Footprinters Club (similar to the Lion's Club) and various restaurants and bars including Holcomb House, Bailywick's, and Snoshu's Tavern. For 21 years, it housed the Silver Peak Brewery.

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124 Wonder Street, Reno, Nevada