Architect Edward Parsons, who lived next door at 761 California Avenue, designed the estate at 775 California, modeling the residence after George Washington’s Mount Vernon Home. His client was Irving Briggs Dexter, a Philippine mahogany lumber baron who had left there to escape at the onset of World War II. In 1939, he told Ed Parsons, “I want a house something like George Washington built. I (also) want a little room of my own. Call it the doghouse.” Initially, Dexter wanted the large columns of the house to face the Truckee River, but Parsons finally convinced him to have the front face California Avenue.
The house was completed in 1940 and the McLaughlin family purchased it in 1945. David McLaughlin remembered that his mother Katherine had always admired the house and later recalled, “When Mrs. Dexter invited her for tea, she was so excited because she would get to see the house.” One day, Mrs. Dexter gave Katherine McLaughlin a tour of the home and then handed her the keys and said, “Your husband just bought this house for you.”
John “Mac” McLaughlin had first come to Reno as an FBI agent in the 1920s to investigate money laundering in Reno banks. He was then dispatched to Reno a second time in 1934 to investigate the mysterious disappearance of local banker Roy Frisch just before he had been subpoenaed to testify in New York at the federal trial of William J. Graham and James C. McKay. Katherine Kimball together with her young son Robert had come to Reno for a divorce. Mac McLaughlin and Katherine were married shortly thereafter and had two more sons. David McLaughlin also recalled that his father left the FBI because “it bothered my mother that he had to be gone so much.” After leaving the FBI, Mac McLaughlin practiced law in Reno for years and then served on the bench as a U.S. Commissioner.
This large two-story home sits on a 2.9-acre parcel and is of the Neoclassical Revival style, consisting of 5,065 square feet plus a 1,395-square-foot finished basement (which originally contained two maids’ rooms and a children’s playroom), and has four bedrooms and three full bathrooms and two half bathrooms. Interesting architectural features include the large-scale open portico along the side of the original house; the Federal entrance flanked by sidelights and a fanlight; and classic columns with volutes. The formal living room features original dentil crown molding. Ed Parsons also designed the 1948 guesthouse including three bedrooms and four bathrooms and the pool, keeping as much as possible with original design.