John Newton Evans Mansion (site)

Built in 1878 prior to the founding of the UNR campus, the mansion later served as the first SAE House.

Over the years, Reno has lost many beautiful early homes built by significant residents but near the top of the list is certainly the John Newton “Newt” Evans mansion. Built in 1878 in the midst of an alfalfa field, it stood alone in that sector of town until the University of Nevada was relocated from Elko to Reno, and Morrill Hall was constructed in 1885.

Three Evans brothers, Orlando, Alvaro and Allen, had relocated from Defiance, Ohio to California in the early 1850s. In 1859, brother Newt joined them and in 1865, the last brother to come west was Alphonso, known as “Pete.”

Newt returned to Ohio briefly in 1876 where he met Elizabeth Metcalf, daughter of a judge and 18 years his junior. Newt returned to Reno, sent Elizabeth an engagement ring and she joined him in 1877, when the couple were married. Newt promptly made plans to construct a mansion for his wife. Reported the September 8, 1878 Daily Nevada State Journal, in a column item titled “Magnificent House”: “Newt Evans is building a new house in Evans’ Addition which, when completed, will be the finest residence in Reno. It is a large two-story, has eight bay windows, supplied with all the modern conveniences, and is in every respect a splendid home.” The style was Italianate, a very popular architectural style of this era.

Elizabeth and Newt raised six children in the home whose original address was 813 Peavine Street, later changed to 835 Evans Avenue. In 1903, Newt died following a fall from a bale of hay. He was 68 and current President of the Board of Regents of the university. Elizabeth occupied the home until her death in 1924 at age 71. The home was sold to the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity that year, who occupied it until it was demolished in 1953. In its place, a brick ranch-style structure was constructed for the fraternity, designed by Russell Mills and Edward Parsons.

Images

Evans Mansion and Morrill Hall
Evans Mansion and Morrill Hall An early photograph of the Evans Mansion with very young landscaping also includes a view of Morrill Hall on top of the hill in the background. Standing in front are likely Elizabeth and Bess, possibly with John Newton, Jr. peeking about from behind the tree. Source: Deb Hinman Date: ca. 1890
General Orlando Evans' funeral
General Orlando Evans' funeral The funeral of Orlando Evans, brother of John Newton Evans, was held at the mansion on August 22, 1897. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
Newton family photo, ca. 1909
Newton family photo, ca. 1909 A family portrait featuring Mrs. J. N. Evans, Bess Evans, Italia Flave, Ella Kalfus Evans, Benjamin Metcalf, Rowena Evans, Guysme Davis, Ben Allen Evans, and dogs Chuckle and Coalie. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1909
Mansion as Fraternity House
Mansion as Fraternity House Viewed in 1953, the mansion had fallen into disrepair after decades serving as the SAE fraternity house and was demolished that year. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1953
End of an era
End of an era After serving for decades as the chapter house for the SAE fraternity, the mansion was demolished in 1953 and replaced by a new purpose-built structure designed by Russell Mills and Edward Parsons. Source: SAE Fraternity Archives Date: 1953

Location

835 Evans Avenue, Reno, Nevada

Metadata

Deb Hinman, “John Newton Evans Mansion (site),” Reno Historical, accessed May 19, 2024, https://renohistorical.org/items/show/275.