Filed Under Businesses

Solari Building

The 1938 building on South Virginia Street was the longtime home of Hansel & Gretel Children's Clothing.

From 1948 to 1974, the two-story brick building at 1052 South Virginia Street was known across Reno as the home of the Hansel & Gretel clothing store, offering “quality clothes for children.” Upstairs were the Solari Apartments, named for Camill Solari, who financed the building’s construction in 1938. It was designed by the prestigious architectural firm of Frederic DeLongchamps and George O'Brien.

At the time, Solari lived in a modest house that long stood next door at 1042 South Virginia Street. By the 1930s, he was known as Reno’s “Decorator De Luxe.” Born in Switzerland in 1897, Solari had immigrated to the United States in 1914, and after working for a time in the railroad shops, started a painting, papering, and decorating business. Quickly, he won praise as a true craftsman, becoming the decorator of choice for commercial and residential projects across town. Eventually he partnered with prominent business owners and real estate developers including Dick Graves and Norman Biltz.

Solari’s commercial building served as half investment property and half storage space for his growing painting operation, C. Solari & Sons. The ground floor featured two storefronts and one apartment, with a paint warehouse on the Holcomb Avenue side and six more apartments upstairs. The building is constructed of concrete and multicolored brick, with decorative courses of contrasting pressed brick bands near the top of the front façade, and rows of brick headers bordering the door and window openings and corner edges.

Local residents fondly remember purchasing everything from Catholic school uniforms to Easter dresses and fancy coats at Hansel & Gretel. Known for stocking hard-to-find shoe sizes, the owners used an x-ray machine to ensure a precise fit.

Prior to the children’s clothing store, the ground floor housed other tenants including a beauty salon and a furniture dealer. Lee and Donna Erickson purchased Hansel & Gretel in 1969, and in 1974, moved the business south to Moana Lane. Camill Solari died in 1976, and the apartments were later renamed Ciraolo Apartments.

An adult movie theater took over the building in the mid-1970s, after Virginia Street was displaced as the main north-south highway through town and most retail moved to the newer shopping malls and commercial strips. At some point, an addition to the south side of the building housed a club called Le Cabaret, which was topped by one of the larger-than-life showgirl figures from downtown’s Primadonna Club. Most of that addition was later removed, but the original 1938 brick structure, with its beautiful decorative brick, remains intact.

Images

Hansel and Gretel, 1960s
Hansel and Gretel, 1960s A photo taken during a street widening project in the 1960s shows the Solari Building with the Solari family home still standing in the foreground. Source: Nevada Department of Transportation
Easter shopping
Easter shopping Young Reno residents Allison Brown and Barry O'Sullivan pose in front of the Hansel & Gretel Children's Clothing display window in a photo shoot for the Reno Evening Gazette in the mid-1960s. Source: Barry O'Sullivan Date: ca. 1965
Architectural Drawings
Architectural Drawings The drawings completed by the architecture firm of DeLongchamps and O'Brien detailed the materials to be used for the Solari Store and Apartments: pressed brick, tile below the display windows, and boxes for awnings to be installed above. The center door opened to stairs leading to the upstairs apartments. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Creator: DeLongchamps and O'Brien
The new building
The new building A newspaper article in July 1938 announced the new store and apartment building and some of its original tenants, a "piano agency" and beauty parlor. Source: Reno Evening Gazette Date: July 30, 1938
Solari home and apartments
Solari home and apartments A street widening operation in 1965 captured Solari's former home, in the foreground, with his apartment building housing the Hansel and Gretel clothing store directly behind. Source: Nevada Department of Transportation Date: 1965
Decorator De Luxe
Decorator De Luxe The building's original owner, Camill Solari, was the city's most successful painting contractor, with expertise in painting, papering, and drywalling. His sons later joined the business, which became known as C. Solari & Sons. Source: Reno Evening Gazette Date: March 19, 1938
Hansel & Gretel
Hansel & Gretel For nearly thirty years, the building housed Hansel & Gretel, a popular upscale children's clothing store that also sold selected toys and collectibles such as Madame Alexander dolls. Source: Reno Evening Gazette Date: November 18, 1964
Children's photo shoot
Children's photo shoot Young Reno residents Allison Brown and Barry O'Sullivan pose inside the Hansel & Gretel Children's Clothing store in a photo shoot for the Reno Evening Gazette in the mid-1960s. Source: Barry O'Sullivan Date: ca. 1965
A neighborhood of shops
A neighborhood of shops Seen from the interior of the Hansel & Gretel Children's Clothing Store is Interiors by Gravelle, a fixture at 1049 South Virginia Street for more than three decades. Posing for a photo feature in the Reno Evening Gazette are Allison Brown and Barry O'Sullivan. Source: Barry O'Sullivan Date: ca. 1965
Changing Times
Changing Times In the mid-1970s, the Hansel & Gretel clothing store moved to Moana Lane, and the building housed an adult movie theater. By the time of this photo, in 1986, the south side had gained an addition that was later removed. For a time, one of the showgirls from the closed Primadonna Club downtown perched on the roof. Source: Nevada Historical Society Date: 1986
Familiar lines
Familiar lines Underneath the additions to its façade and signage, the building retains its original shape and beautiful brick ornamentation. Creator: Alicia Barber Date: 2015
Decorative brick
Decorative brick The building's symmetry is complemented by courses of decorative brick near the top of its front facade. Borders created by turning contrasting brick on end surround the window and door openings and line the building's corners. Creator: Alicia Barber Date: 2015

Location

1052 South Virginia Street, Reno, NV

Metadata

Alicia Barber, “Solari Building,” Reno Historical, accessed June 13, 2024, http://www.renohistorical.org/items/show/116.