Filed Under Education

Southside School Annex

Built in 1936 as additional space for the adjacent (since demolished) Southside School.

The Southside School Annex was built in 1936 through a grant provided by the Public Works Administration (PWA), one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs initiated during the Great Depression. The Southside School had been built in 1903 to accommodate a growing student population. A small fire station located on the property was converted into additional school space in 1918 as the town continued to grow. By 1935, the Reno School District recognized the need for more space and applied to the PWA for construction funding. Once funding was approved, construction began in 1936.

The auxiliary building, as it was originally called, was designed by the architect Lawrence Gulling, the grandfather of noted interior designer Bruce Goff, in the Art Deco architectural style. The red-brick school’s most striking feature is the two-story stepped and recessed terra cotta frontispiece surrounding the entrance, which is angled to face the corner of Liberty and Sinclair streets. Other decorative elements are in owl and floral motifs rendered in terra cotta.

The building was designed to house the kindergarten program on the first floor and an auditorium upstairs. The quality of construction was high throughout the building and interior design elements include a stunning fireplace in the kindergarten room surrounded with tiles depicting the Old King Cole fairy tale. The tiles were made by the prominent Arts and Crafts tile maker, Ernest Batchelder of Los Angeles.

By the late 1950s, Reno was expanding and the demography of the downtown area was changing. In response the school district traded the land under the Southside School to the city government in exchange for some property in the north part of town. Several plans for the property were considered and in 1960 the Southside School was demolished. The following year, the Reno City Council voted to place a new city hall on the site. That building opened in 1965. The Annex, as it had come to be known, was converted into city offices and then leased to outside organizations. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1993 and on the Reno Register of Historic Places in 1996.

Images

Southside School Annex, ca. 1937.
Southside School Annex, ca. 1937. The annex building was hailed as a "commodious new edifice" soon after its construction, made possible by a PWA grant for approximately $82,500.00. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1937
Old Southside School, ca. 1925
Old Southside School, ca. 1925 The annex building was a necessary expansion to the older Southside School it neighbored, pictured here around 1925. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1925
Last Downtown School Building
Last Downtown School Building The Southside School Annex building is the last public school building to remain standing in the central downtown area. It is currently owned by the City of Reno and leased as office space. Source: City of Reno, Historical Resources Commission
Merry Old Soul, 2014
Merry Old Soul, 2014 Charming tiles surrounding the fireplace in the former kindergarten room tell the story of Old King Cole. Creator: Alicia Barber Date: 2014
Symbol of Wisdom, 2014
Symbol of Wisdom, 2014 Owl details above the windows grace the school building with the traditional symbol of wisdom. Creator: Alicia Barber Date: 2014
Second Floor Auditorium, 2014
Second Floor Auditorium, 2014 The second floor of the Southside School Annex building houses a large auditorium with gleaming floors and a wood-trimmed stage. Creator: Alicia Barber Date: 2014

Location

190 East Liberty Street, Reno, NV

Metadata

Mella Rothwell Harmon, “Southside School Annex,” Reno Historical, accessed June 14, 2024, http://www.renohistorical.org/items/show/55.