February 2021

HRPS News & Updates

Dear HRPS Members,

Thanks to everyone who renewed their membership in January, and especially those who renewed online!  90% of our renewals come in January and we're grateful you feel Reno historic preservation is important.  If you have questions about membership or need assistance, feel free to e-mail our new Membership Chair, ZoAnn Campana, at membership@historicreno.org.

We hope you're enjoying your Winter 2021 edition of FootPrints.  HRPS is fortunate to have  volunteer researchers and experts who provide articles for our quarterly magazine.  If you have a suggestion for an article or would like to consider submitting something for publication yourself, please contact me at the email below. 

Don't forget to join us Tuesday, February 2 for this month's virtual program on the enigmatic Howard Hughes.  See registration information below.  In this issue you'll find additional updates on the Lear Theater, the brewing Steamboat Ditch controversy, a profile on HRPS Instagram page author, Brett Banks, our February reading selection, a little-known visit to Reno by legendary writer, Langston Hughes, "Reno's Sick Clock", and much more.

With vaccines rolling out for more and more people, we hope to return to in-person events later this year.  Until then, be safe, be well, and in honor of St. Valentine's Day, be kind.


Carol Coleman, President

Historic Reno Preservation Society


HRPS February Program

"Howard Hughes, Fact & Fiction"

Tuesday, February 2, 2021, 5:30-6:30 pm

Geoffrey Schumacher is the Vice President of Exhibits and Programs for The Mob Museum in Las Vegas, and the author of "Sun, Sin & Suburbia:  A History of Modern Las Vegas", and the recently revised "Howard Hughes:  Power, Paranoia & Palace Intrigue".

Schumacher combines a bachelor's in journalism with a masters in American history and a twenty-five year career in journalism to tell this compelling story.  He also serves as associate editor of the Nevada Historical Society Quarterly.

This online program is free, but advance registration is required.

What are you Reading?

Expand your knowledge of Reno History with our monthly book suggestions.

In "Reno's Big Gamble", Reno's own Alicia Barber traces the transformation of Reno's reputation from backward railroad town to the nationally known "Sin Central"—as Garrison Keillor observed, a place where you could see things that you wouldn't want to see in your own hometown. Chronicling the city's changing fortunes from the days of the Comstock Lode, she describes how city leaders came to embrace an identity as "The Biggest Little City in the World" and transform their town into a lively tourist mecca.

Alicia Barber, Ph.D., is a historian, writer, and consultant who directed the University of Nevada Oral History Program from 2009-2013. A member of the Nevada State Board of Museums and History and the HRPS Board, Alicia writes for a wide range of publications, curates and consults on public history projects. 

Meet our Instagram Editor

Brett Banks

HRPS Instagram Editor

Brett Banks is a 7th generation Nevadan who became interested in local preservation after researching her genealogy and realizing how important the forgotten stories of her own pioneer family members are to this community and state. 

Along with stories, historic photos, current updates on places like the Gateway District and mid-century motels, Brett often shares 'now & then' comparisons of locations in Reno, such as this comparison of the old downtown Post Office.  

Brett serves on the board of HRPS and as a volunteer with the Hillside Cemetery Preservation Foundation.  She is a professional seamstress, and is studying for a degree in Historic Preservation. 

Did you know HRPS has an Instagram page?  For those who aren't familiar, Instagram is a social networking app for sharing photos and videos from a smartphone.  

Through photo and video sharing, users can engage with, re-share, and even save posts for later access.  It's a great way to introduce Reno area history to non-members.

"@HistoricRenoNevada started as a way for me to share my knowledge of Reno history with friends and family but has grown to be a great way to educate and involve our community in preservation and reclamation", says HRPS Board Member and Instagram maven, Brett Banks. 

"Each unique story focuses on historic people and frequently unknown or unnoticed bits of our city’s history - identifying forgotten pioneer members of our community and their pivotal roles in building the valley’s legacy".

"I come from the pioneer Wines and Jewkes families of Elko County, primarily descending from Ira Doty Wines- a mormon settler who came from Utah and homesteaded in Ruby Valley in the 1860s. There is a legacy of pony express riders, post masters, Nevada Senators, and other important roles within the Wines family connected to many corners of the state, including Reno. The original 1860s house and ranch still remain and my great grandmother’s city, Welcome, NV, with her original 1920s service station is now a beautiful RV park with plans in the future to use the station as a museum." - Brett Banks

Langston Hughes Visits Hillside Cemetery

Poet and author, Langston Hughes, came to Reno in 1934 to find inspiration and write, spending 5 weeks at 521 Elko Ave.  During a walk one evening, he stumbled upon a "forlorn mountain cemetery outside city limits" - Hillside Cemetery.  There, he had an eerie experience that resulted in the story, Postbox: Love which was never published.  Read an account of this touching story, researched by Brett Banks.

Correspondence from Reno

Photo courtesy of Alex Albright, Nevada Magazine

Langston Hughes

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Hillside Cemetery

Photo courtesy of KTNV Channel 2 News

521 Elko Ave. today

Photo courtesy of Google Maps

Steamboat Ditch in the News

Steamboat Ditch runs from the Truckee River near the California Stateline, to Steamboat Creek in southern Reno, a distance of 34 miles.

(Photos courtesy of runningroundreno.com and Mapcarta.com)

Water in Nevada has always been a source of controversy.  Built in the 1870s to provide irrigation throughout the Truckee Meadows, ownership, management, and rules for use of the area's ditch system has ignited plenty of passion. 

Recently, the Steamboat Ditch has become the center of a new controversy, with a proposal to cover a portion of the ditch.  Residents, hikers, and environmentalists have raised alarms, but the history and use of the Ditch is complex.  For those who would like to familiarize themselves with the issues, here are some resources.

Reno Gazette Journal Article - January 17, 2021 - discusses citizen opinions on the possibility of encasing some of the ditch's 34 mile long route.

FootPrints - Spring 2004 - This issue of FootPrints provides an excellent short history of the development of the ditches, and their use for agriculture and recreation.

Ditch Survey for the City of Reno by Gray & Associates, December 2, 2003 - provides a brief history of Ditch agreements, and current drainage needs.  Includes many maps and photos

Washoe County Map of area drainage ditches 

Lear Theater Update

Lear Theater - 528 W. 1st Street

Have you been following the Lear Theater development controversy?  The latest proposal is to build a 45-50 unit apartment complex on the property that would require abandoning the section of Ralston and Riverside Drive adjacent to Bicentennial Park, required, the developer says, to make the Lear renovation financially feasible.  Frank Mullen's excellent January 11, 2021 Reno News and Review article lays out the history, issues and concerns.  

Links to many more resources can be found on the HRPS website.

Whimsical Names and Uplifting Places

Sparks Museum and Cultural Center is kicking off 2021 with a newly developed digital lecture series! Topics are presented by notable historians about the heritage and history of Sparks and the surrounding Truckee Meadows. 

Join us Saturday, February, 20, at 2pm

Email info@sparksmuseum.org for the Zoom link by Feb. 19 

Jack Hursh- Whimsical Names and Uplifting Places across the landscape of Nevada

Author, historian, photographer, and Nevada barn expert, Jack Hursh will share his digital presentation on the majestic landscape of Nevada and its many interesting place names. This talk will provide an overview of Nevada through a geographical lens, which complements the exhibit opening February 1 at the Sparks Museum!

100 Years Ago in Reno

Early 20th Century postcards of Reno City Hall and clock tower at 1st and Center St.

Reno Walkabout

What do Riverside Drive, Wooster High School, the Regina Apartments and UNR's Ross Hall have in common?  They're all profiled on the "Reno Historical" app and website.  

Click on any of the map pins for an instant photo and story of an historic building or location. 

If you're up for a walk or drive, click on the "Tours" tab for a selection of self-guided tours around town.  A great way to introduce friends and out of town guests to a little local history.


HRPS is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting historic resources in the Truckee Meadows through education, advocacy, and leadershiphistoricreno.org 

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