Filed Under Education

Bishop Whitaker's School for Girls (site)

The educational institution operated from 1876 to 1894 in today's Whitaker Park.

Walking along the paths that cross today's Whitaker Park can provide a sense of the grounds on which Bishop Whitaker’s School for Girls stood from 1876 through 1894. Ozi W. Whitaker was the Episcopal Bishop of Nevada from his arrival during territorial days until 1886, when he left Nevada for a post in Pennsylvania.

In the mid-1870s, seeing a need for educational facilities in the area, especially for girls, Bishop Whitaker sought a donation of land on which to build an academy. Charles Crocker of the Central Pacific Railroad offered the Bishop his choice of any land owned by the railroad, and on April 26, 1876, the Bishop accepted, claiming one-half block of land on a hill overlooking Reno and the Truckee River. An additional seven acres were purchased from the railroad for $400.00.

The school opened in December of 1876. It served as a day school for local girls and included a dormitory for 40 boarders. Highly qualified educators provided rigorous courses through the twelfth grade as well as exposure to traditional Christian values. In addition to academic instruction, the school offered typical “finishing school” classes such as art, music, foreign languages, and domestic science. With monthly tuition as high as $65 per month, the school attracted daughters of wealthy Nevada families and boarders from the East.

Whitaker’s School for Girls had an excellent reputation, but two incidents in 1886 foretold its end. The first was Bishop Whitaker’s move to Pennsylvania. He had been such an ardent supporter of the school that his absence took some of the spirit from the place. The second proved to be competition the school could not overcome. On March 31, 1886, the University of Nevada moved from Elko to a hillside location near Whitaker’s School. The university charged no tuition. Though it required entering students be at least fifteen years old, of good moral character, and pass a basic entrance exam, the biggest draw was that students from Nevada high schools were not required to take the exam.

In 1894, Whitaker’s School for Girls closed its doors. The building was leased to the university in 1895 for use as a boys dormitory until the completion of Lincoln Hall, and in subsequent years, the school district used several of its rooms sporadically to house grammar school and high school classes while other buildings were under construction. In 1903, the building was converted into a hospital until the City of Reno purchased it. Ultimately it was demolished and the site was developed into a park named in honor of Bishop Whitaker.


Bishop Whitaker School for Girls building
Bishop Whitaker School for Girls building Constructed in 1876, the three-story building housed a kitchen, dining room, servants' quarters, a gymnasium, and three music rooms on the ground floor. Classrooms and school offices occupied the second floor, with boarding on the third. Source: Jerry Fenwick
Bishop Ozi Whitaker
Bishop Ozi Whitaker Bishop Whitaker was highly esteemed by both his students and the local community. He died in Philadelphia in 1911. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
Sketch by Anne Martin
Sketch by Anne Martin A page from the irreverent sketchbook of a Whitaker student who later became a key figure in the Nevada and national women's suffrage movements. Source: Nevada Historical Society Creator: Anne Martin
Bishop Whitaker and students, ca. 1888
Bishop Whitaker and students, ca. 1888 The Bishop poses with some of his students. The Whitaker Hall Alumnae Association, composed of former students of the school, met regularly for years after the school's closure. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1888
Whitaker Hospital
Whitaker Hospital An advertisement in the Reno Evening Gazette from August 12, 1904 outlines some of the services offered by the new Whitaker Hospital, operating in the old Whitaker School building. Source: Reno Evening Gazette Date: August 12, 1904
Whitaker Park, 1937
Whitaker Park, 1937 Federal relief workers undertook a beautification project in Whitaker Park in the 1930s. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1937


550 University Terrace, Reno, NV


Mella Rothwell Harmon, “Bishop Whitaker's School for Girls (site),” Reno Historical, accessed July 19, 2024,