The house at 491 Court Street was built for Roland F. Roy in 1907, the same year that the nearby Nixon Mansion was completed. Newlands Heights was the most exclusive neighborhood in town, a testament to the affluence and prominence of its residents.
At the time, Roy was the manager of Nevada Engineering Works, which itself had a new building underway on East Fourth Street. Born in Virginia City in 1876, Roy attended Stanford University, where he graduated in the same class as the future President Herbert Hoover, also an engineer. He then worked for Union Iron Works in San Francisco as a machinist and in the drafting room, and for a time operated a large mine hoist in Mexico. Returning to Virginia City at age 28, he worked as a draftsman for the Fulton Foundry. When the plant was moved to Reno in 1903, it was rebuilt under his supervision as Nevada Engineering Works, and Roy was named manager. He lived here with his wife, Maude, and two children until Maude passed away of a sudden illness in 1915.
In January of 1927, Dorothy Adams Hay bought the house, which was then described in the paper as “one of the most attractive homes in Reno…being built of cobble stones, and having a wonderful view of the city from the heights over the Truckee River.” Hay had come to Reno with her two daughters to divorce her husband, New York publisher Richard Kingsland Hay. After their divorce in April of that year, she managed the Mayberry Guest Ranch west of town for a brief time and was sued for custody of their daughters by her ex-husband, who claimed she was exposing them to an unsuitable environment. He won custody of their eldest daughter, and Dorothy apparently continued to run up some debt, as the bank foreclosed on the house in 1932 and it was purchased by mining and real estate executive Earle W. Hart and his wife, Helen.
In 1940, Bishop Thomas K. Gorman of Reno’s Catholic Diocese dedicated the house as a convent for the Holy Family Sisters, which it remained for about 60 years. The Holy Family Sisters of San Francisco operated the Reno Day Home, a children’s day care center that was established by the Catholic Welfare Bureau in 1943. A grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes was dedicated on the convent grounds in 1945, and a cross is still visible on the house’s roof. The convent operated as a semi-public chapel where the public could attend mass.
The Roland F. Roy House was originally built in the Craftsman style (evidenced in the stone porch) but has experienced numerous modifications. It contains 4,405 square feet plus a 2,038-square-foot finished basement, eight bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms. The structure has housed offices for many years.