Filed Under Residences

Needham Rooming House

The Needhams offered necessary lodging for Black visitors to Reno, including divorce-seekers.

The small brick house (since covered with stucco) at 501 Elko Avenue was constructed early in the 20th century, at least by 1918. It was offered as a rental for many years.

In 1943, Lennie Rossiter sold the property to J.T. Needham. A Reno resident since about 1938, Needham was a prominent member of Reno's Black community. In the 1930s and 1940s, he was at various times the proprietor of the Peavine Club at 219 Peavine Street (now Evans Avenue), the Dixie Club at 218 East Douglas Alley, and the Black and Tan Club at 238 East Douglas Alley. He was also an officer in the local branch of the NAACP and a member of the Bethel AME Church. Unlike many Reno neighborhoods at the time, the Morrill Addition was not governed by restrictive racial covenants that explicitly prohibited people of color from renting or owning property there.

In 1950, the Needhams' home appeared in an Ebony magazine article that followed the experiences of a young Black woman named Emma Allen who stayed in Reno for six weeks to secure a divorce. She rented a room from the Needhams, who were said to operate "a rooming house for Negro divorcees." As Doris Needham said in the article, "There's so few decent places for Negro women to stay in Reno that we decided to open our home to them. We keep a neat, clean house and we don't tolerate any monkey business. Women are not allowed to bring any male guests here." They reportedly charged $8 per week for lodging.

With their longstanding local connections, the Needhams could introduce their guests to many members of the local Black community. Through them, Emma Allen met the president of the NAACP and the pastor of the Bethel AME Church.

Needham sold the property in 1960 and it offered rental apartments for many years. It was operating as the Center Street Mission in the 1990s, offering shelter for homeless men enrolled in the mission's "Search for Work" program. Funded by federal and local grants, the organization charged boarders $60/week including three meals a day. In 2005 the house became known as Faith House, a faith-based live-in facility for troubled teens.

Images

The house in 2022
The house in 2022 Although renovated on the exterior, and expanded with an addition to its north, the Needham Rooming House remains standing on the NW corner of Elko Avenue and East 5th Street. Creator: Alicia Barber Date: 2022
Faith House
Faith House Pastor Otto Kelly poses in front of the house in 2005 as renovation was underway to transform it into a live-in faith-based facility for troubled teens. Source: Reno Gazette-Journal Date: May 7. 2005

Location

501 Elko Avenue, Reno, Nevada

Metadata

Alicia Barber, “Needham Rooming House,” Reno Historical, accessed May 19, 2024, https://renohistorical.org/items/show/265.