In 1859, Charles Fuller built a log bridge across
the Truckee River and charged a fee to those who
passed over it on their way to Virginia City and the
gold recently discovered there. Fuller also provided
gold-seekers with a place to rest, purchase a meal,
and exchange information with other prospectors.
In 1861, Myron Lake purchased Fuller's bridge, with
the money from the tolls, bought more land, and
constructed a gristmill, livery stable, and kiln. When
the Central Pacific Railroad reached Nevada from
Sacramento in 1868, Lake made sure that his crossing
was included in its path by deeding a portion of his
land to Charles Crocker (an organizer of the Central
Pacific Railroad Company), who promised to build a
depot at Lake's Crossing. On May 13, 1868, the town
site of Reno was officially established. Lake's remaining
land was divided into lots and auctioned off to
businessmen and homebuilders.
At the turn of the century, Nevada Senator Francis
Newlands played a prominent role in the passage
of the Reclamation Act of 1902. The Newlands
Reclamation Project diverted Truckee River water to
farmland east of Reno prompting the growth of the
town of Fallon.
The residence of Francis Newlands, built in 1889, is
one of five National Historic Landmarks in Nevada.
Because Nevada's economy was tied to the
mining industry and its inevitable ups and downs,
the state had to find other means of economic
support during the down times. Reno earned the
title "Sin City" because it hosted several legal
brothels, was the scene of illegal underground
gambling, and offered quick and easy divorces.
Nystrom House, built in 1875 for Washoe County
Clerk John Shoemaker, is also significant for its
role as a boardinghouse during Reno's divorce
trade in the 1920's. The Riverside Hotel, designed
by Frederick DeLongchamps, was built in 1927
specifically for divorce-seekers and boasted an
In 1927, in celebration of the completion of the
Lincoln Highway (Highway 50) and the Victory
Highway (Highway 40), the state of California
built the California Building as a gift for the
Transcontinental Exposition, held at Idlewild Park.
The Mapes Hotel was built in 1947 and opened
for business on December 17 of that year. It was
the first high-rise built to combine a hotel and
casino, providing the prototype for modern hotel/
This brief history of Reno highlights only a few
of the many treasures that make up the unique
history of "The Biggest Little City in the World."
Reno is located at the western border of Nevada
- in a valley known as the Truckee Meadows - about
20 miles easy of the Sierra Nevada mountains and
Lake Tahoe, the second largest alpine lake in the
world. The Truckee River passes between Reno and
its sister city, Sparks. Low humidity and sunny skies are prevalent
throughout the year.
The History of Sparks (nickname Rail City)
There may not be another city in the land that came
to life in quite the unique way Sparks did. It's the
custom-made town by the Southern
In 1902, there was nothing but swampland and ranches four miles east of Reno.
When the Southern Pacific succeeded Central
Pacific as the new owner of the main line across
Northern Nevada, one of the first decisions made
was to straighten the road and cut a few miles off
the distance. The new route bypassed Wadsworth,
which for 40 years had ruled the roundhouse and
maintenance shops of Central Pacific.
Southern Pacific made a startling offer to its
Wadsworth employees; a tract of land would be
laid out next to the roundhouse, and the railroad
would give everyone clear deed to a lot 50' X
140' in size, and to add to the miracle, the railroad
offered to pack up every house in Wadsworth and
ship it to the new town, free of charge. Sometime
during the summer of 1903 a drawing was held the
employees names in one hat, lot numbers in
another- and everyone got what they got. Sixty seven
lots changed title that day, at a price of
$1 per lot.