Mansions on the Bluff

This captivating enclave close to Reno’s downtown is probably the city’s best-kept secret. The title also is the name of one of the most popular walks sponsored by the Historic Reno Preservation Society (HRPS) during the months of May, June and July each year. The residences in this relatively small neighborhood include the homes of three former U.S. Senators, prominent attorneys, local merchants, renowned doctors, and more—in short, the movers and shakers who helped to make Reno the Biggest Little City in the World.

One man can be credited with causing this area to become what it was and is today. Francis Griffith Newlands was a young attorney living with his wife (the former) Clara Adelaide Sharon and practicing law in San Francisco. Prior to his death in 1885 Clara’s father, William Sharon of Virginia City, had appointed Francis as general counsel of his business ventures.

In 1888 Francis Newlands married his second spouse (the former) Edith McAllister, daughter of the dean of the San Francisco Bar. Shortly thereafter they relocated to Reno where he professionally attended to managing the Sharon estate. Prior to that move Francis Newlands had established a Reno real estate company and purchased a 600-acre tract of land from Jane Lake, the divorced spouse of Myron Lake (Reno’s founder) that ran from Court Street up onto California Street at the top of the bluff. Construction of their 6,851-square foot house (see entry for the Senator Francis G. Newlands House) started in 1887.

In 1895 Newlands advertised his first subdivision of Riverside Estates in the Nevada State Journal mentioning lots for sale adjoining the residences of F.G. Newlands, A.H. Manning and the late M.D. Foley, the location being the healthiest and most pleasant in Reno, with fine views and dry, clean streets in winter. Eight years later in 1903 Francis Newlands formed the Newlands Company with local businessmen Oscar J. Smith, W.A. Massey and N.W. Rolf; the company acted as the umbrella corporation and oversaw the neighborhood’s development from 1903 into the 1940s. Francis Newlands correctly predicted the popularity of the bluff for development. The acreage accommodated a robust building boom of upscale homes on estate-sized lots in the Newlands Heights (originally Rio Vista Heights) subdivision.

Info for this tour was compiled by the Historic Reno Preservation Society, with special assistance and contemporary photographs by Donna and Paul Erickson, and additional research and writing by Alicia Barber.

Gibbons/McCarran House

The Gibbons/McCarran House, often called the McCarran Mansion, sits prominently on Arlington Avenue and serves as a gateway to a row of fine homes along Court Street. A long-time myth about the house takes us back to Hollywood screen stars and the…

French/Cooke House

The French/Cooke House, now owned by the Cooke family's third generation, tells the intertwined story of two attorneys who came to Nevada from very different parts of the country at the height of the state’s mining boom and later became…

Price House

This was the longtime home and law office of attorney Robert M. Price, who moved to Reno with his wife, Jennie, in 1904. Practicing first with the firm of Cheney, Massey, and Smith, Price quickly became an active member of the community. He was a…

Gray House

This house was the residence of Joseph H. Gray, Jr., said to have been the first white child born in Truckee, California. The year was 1868, five years after his father, Joseph H. Gray, Sr., a lumber mill operator, had constructed the first cabin in…

Gosse House

The house at 465 Court Street was originally the home of Harry “Pop” Gosse, a Nevada resident for more than 80 years who was perhaps best known as the owner of one version of the famous Riverside Hotel, located on the south bank of the Truckee…

Roy House

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.…

Reid House

In 1901 Hosea Reid became one of the founders of the Gray, Reid & Company dry goods store, along with partner Joseph Gray, whose house is located at 457 Court Street. Their store was originally located at the corner of Second and Virginia…

Grimmon House (site)

What is now a vacant lot at 543 Court Street was once a beautiful residence overlooking the river. Its story began in 1906, when Robert Grimmon purchased five acres from Senator Francis G. Newlands, just east of the Newlands House. The large tract of…

Hawkins House

Attorney Prince Albert Hawkins purchased this plum piece of property from Senator Francis G. Newlands in 1912 and hired architect Elmer Gray of Los Angeles to design his grand family residence at 549 Court Street. Gray also designed and built the…

Francis G. Newlands Office

In 1890-91, soon after constructing his impressive residence on the bluff overlooking the Truckee River, Francis G. Newlands had a smaller house built on his estate to serve as his personal office. The second building, like the first (see separate…

Frederic DeLongchamps Cottage

Frederic DeLongchamps, Reno’s most famous and prolific architect, designed this enchanting house in 1919. It is an example of the English Country Cottage, or Tudor Revival style popular throughout the Newlands Heights neighborhood. The house is…

Senator Francis G. Newlands House, NHL

Francis Newlands built his large home on Elm Court in 1890, two years after moving to Reno from San Francisco with his second wife, Edith McAllister. Newlands’ first wife, Clara, was the daughter of Comstock mining and banking magnate William…

West/Hood House

This residence has been referred to as the “medical mansion”; two physicians owned it, but not in succession. The original building was a large, garage-like structure situated on the Nixon estate overlooking the Truckee River. The structure and…

Luella Garvey House

Luella Garvey moved to Reno from Pasadena, California in 1929. Mrs. Garvey was the wealthy widow of a Cincinnati steel magnate. She selected a parcel in Reno’s most fashionable neighborhood and in 1934, commissioned the African-American architect…

George S. Nixon Mansion

This impressive Newlands Heights home was finished in 1907 as a statement piece for U.S. Senator George S. Nixon, who was elected in 1905 by the Nevada State Legislature (which elected the state's representatives to the U.S. Senate until 1909). …

Muller House

Mary Ruth “Maisie” Kinder was born and raised in Pennsylvania; as a youngster she had the opportunity to go to London to live with her aunt. There she began acting, singing, and dancing. After working as an understudy, she was selected for…

Payne House

Esteemed Reno architect Edward Parsons designed the house at 745 California Avenue in 1941 for Frank R. Payne and his new wife, Hazel. Mr. Payne was a retired executive for the J.C. Penney organization who had moved to Reno with his first wife,…

Steinmiller/Parsons House

According to George Steinmiller’s granddaughter Alice Parsons, “He wanted to be a big fish in a little pond. That is why he came to Reno from Sacramento.” George Steinmiller practiced dentistry in Reno for fifty years. He and his wife Alice…

Dexter/McLaughlin House

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…

Johnston House

This chateau, sometimes referred to as “The Castle,” began as a guest house owned by Janet Sharon Newlands Johnston. Johnston was perhaps the closest thing to Nevada royalty, as the granddaughter of U.S. Senator William Sharon and the second of…