Gibbons/McCarran House

Built in 1913, this grand residence was bought by future U.S. Senator Patrick A. McCarran in 1920.

The Gibbons/McCarran House, often called the McCarran Mansion, sits prominently on Arlington Avenue and serves as a gateway to a row of fine homes along Court Street. A long-time myth about the house takes us back to Hollywood screen stars and the lure of a Reno divorce.

This elegant Colonial Revival mansion was designed by famed local architect Frederic J. DeLongchamps. It was built in 1913 for Lewis A. Gibbons, a political figure of importance and affluence in Reno and Tonopah. After Gibbons died in the house on February 19th, 1920, Patrick A. McCarran bought the house. McCarran—the same notable that the Las Vegas Airport and McCarran ring road in Reno are named for—was U.S. Senator from Nevada from 1933 to 1954. In his earlier years as a lawyer, he developed a reputation as a successful divorce attorney.

As a Senator, McCarran rose to chair the Judiciary Committee in 1944 and became a senior member of Appropriations. He used his committee assignments to bring Nevada military bases, atomic testing, and such federal projects as Basic Magnesium—he later engineered the plant's sale to the state. He also conducted investigations of alleged communist infiltration in the U.S., ranking with Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin during the witch hunts of the late 1940s and early 1950s. McCarran introduced the legislation that created the Civil Aeronautics Board, a forerunner of the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as two anti-communist measures: the McCarran Internal Security Act, which required suspected communists to divulge their political affiliations, and the McCarran-Walter Immigration Act, which limited immigration from Eastern Europe.

In 1920, “America’s Sweetheart” Mary Pickford arrived in Nevada for a divorce and hired McCarran to shepherd her through the process. Despite rumors, Pickford never owned the house or lived in it, preferring the anonymity of Douglas County for her residence. McCarran purchased this house for $35,000 two months after Mary Pickford's divorce decree, leading to the speculation that the high-profile case had given him the means to afford it.

The two-story plaster house has a river rock foundation and a molded cornice with a Greek key frieze that rests below the roofline. Double Tuscan columns frame the entrance. The sidelights are framed by pilasters and topped with a segmented pediment. The rear of the house has a large recessed veranda with four pairs of Tuscan columns and a second story balcony which overlooks the Truckee River below. Two fireplaces in the home are faced with marble from a Tonopah quarry. The house is 4,289 square feet with a 2,152-square-foot finished basement.

McCarran owned the house until 1937, when it was purchased by George A. Campbell, president of the Sierra Pacific Power Company. The building served for a time as an art gallery in the 1950s. It has been beautifully restored and is currently a commercial office space.

Images

The new house, ca. 1915
The new house, ca. 1915 An early view of the Gibbons home, just a few years after its construction. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1915
Prominent neighborhood, ca. 1925
Prominent neighborhood, ca. 1925 The McCarran house, on the right, was surrounded by other spacious, single-family homes, as seen in an article from the Nevada Newsletter about fine homes of Reno, ca. 1925. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Creator: Nevada Newsletter Date: ca. 1925
The McCarran family
The McCarran family Pat and his wife, Martha Harriet, and their daughters Marjorie, Mercy and Noreen are pictured here in 1913, seven years before the family moved into the Gibbons house. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1913
Senator McCarran, ca. 1935
Senator McCarran, ca. 1935 Pat McCarran became a U.S. Senator for Nevada in 1933. This photo is a memento from the papers of George A. Bartlett. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1935
Senator McCarran and his wife, ca. 1936
Senator McCarran and his wife, ca. 1936 Pat McCarran and his wife Harriet attend a formal dinner, probably in Washington, D.C., in the mid-1930s, around the time they sold the home on Court Street. Source: U.S. Library of Congress Creator: Harris & Ewing Date: ca. 1936
Restored, 2014
Restored, 2014 The restored Gibbons/McCarran House, now a commercial building, occupies a prominent position at the corner of Court Street and Arlington Avenue. Its exterior has changed very little since its construction. Creator: Alicia Barber Date: 2014

Location

401 Court Street, Reno, NV

Metadata

Sharon Honig-Bear and Michael Green, “Gibbons/McCarran House,” Reno Historical, accessed May 24, 2024, https://renohistorical.org/items/show/40.