The St. Albans Hotel opened in the spring of 1908 at what is now 380 N. Virginia Street. At the time, it was situated at the far northern end of Reno’s business district, which was concentrated south of the railroad tracks. Initially surrounded to the north, south, and east by private homes, the hotel took up the second and third floors of the new brick building. Each room was beautifully furnished with furniture from leading local purveyor Donnels & Steinmetz.
There was not much need for tourist lodging in 1908; rather, Reno's hotels often served as short-term housing for visiting land developers, salesmen, and other businessmen, as well as long-term accommodations for local residents. St. Albans created a homelike atmosphere with carpeted stairs and an office with heavily upholstered chairs and writing desks. It contained approximately fifty rooms, some of which could be linked to create two and three-room suites, each with its own private bath.
The hotel operated on the so-called “European plan” (no meals), but the food problem was solved by March of 1909, when the St. Albans Delicatessen opened on the ground floor facing Fourth Street, offering “salads, cold meats, meat pies, pork and beans, fruit pies, etc.”
During Reno’s years as a migratory divorce capital, divorce-seekers often stayed in the hotel to wait out their required residency period. Starting in 1913, it gained a distinct advantage when Fourth Street was designated as the route of the new coast-to-coast Lincoln Highway. Eventually, Reno's business district expanded northward to meet the hotel, placing it in the center of the action.
The building’s ground floor housed various businesses through the years, notably Ney’s Quality Market in the 1930s, O’Brien’s Fountain in the 1940s, and the Napoli Café, an Italian restaurant operated by Salvatore and Francea DiSilvestro, from 1953 to 1963.
The hotel went by many names as its ownership changed hands, and like many of Reno’s smaller downtown hotels, its appeal to automobile tourists faded with the construction of nearby motels that offered convenient parking. The large number of hotel casinos constructed from the 1970s onward also reduced the hotel's traveler and tourist business, and it became increasingly run-down. Over time, most of its ornamental brick was removed and the building was repeatedly painted. Its ownership has recently changed hands again, suggesting that the hotel's fate may soon be changing, too.