Caughlin Ranch House

An enduring link to one of Reno's most prosperous pioneering ranch families

The Caughlin Ranch House, along with its outbuildings and pastoral setting, provides a rare and enduring link to Reno’s rich ranching heritage, right in the heart of the city. Since the early 1900s, this lovely Italianate home, one of the area's last surviving historic ranch houses, has stood in the same location, surrounded by undeveloped land. In its early days it bordered the South Verdi Road, a narrow, rural thoroughfare that once ran between the current Plumb Lane and Mayberry Drive.

Known originally as the Andrews Ranch, the pioneering family's expansive property was one of the area’s earliest and largest ranches, consisting at its peak of a reported 6,000 acres of land that stretched all the way from the Truckee River to today’s Skyline Boulevard. In 1874, founder George Washington Andrews purchased the earliest portion of the ranch and built his first house near the current intersection of West Plumb Lane and McCarran Boulevard. Reno at that time was just six years old, and still several miles to the east. Settling in with his wife, Bettie, son Ben, and daughter Crissie, Andrews began to grow alfalfa. By the 1890s, Ben had been killed in an accident and George and Bettie had divorced. In 1895 Crissie married William Henry Caughlin, the local sheriff, and the ranch took on his name.

Around 1900, the large ranch house was disassembled at its original location in Virginia City (where it may have been built as early as the 1860s), moved to its present site, and carefully reassembled. The small home that the family had previously inhabited was moved behind the larger house and used as a bunkhouse for the ranch hands. From the time the Caughlins moved into the main house until shortly before her death in 1955, Crissie occupied her beloved home while the ranch continued to produce crops as well as cows, hogs, chickens, and sheep. Upon her death, Crissie left the ranch to her three surviving children, Bill, Syrene, and Betsy, who together sold the majority of the holdings in order to pay the taxes. That land became the basis of the Caughlin Ranch housing development.

The ranch house underwent a year-long restoration in 1993 planned by Crissie’s daughter, Betsy Donnelly, granddaughter Shiela (Lonie), and Shiela’s son Richard Scharbach, an engineer. It finally passed out of the family's hands in 2006. Two years later, the main ranch house (now numbered 3636 Mayberry Drive), the bunkhouse, and the ranch’s historic well (ca. 1900) were all added to the City of Reno’s Historic Register. The property is surrounded by Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park, which Donnelly donated to Washoe County in 1990 in order to preserve the 30-acre parcel as a refuge of open space and a buffer between the historic ranch house and rapidly encroaching urban development.

Images

Lounging on the porch
Lounging on the porch The Ranch House was reportedly disassembled in Virginia City, moved to Reno via the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, and reassembled on this site around 1900. The entire process was much cheaper than simply constructing a new house. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
George Washington Andrews
George Washington Andrews A formal portrait of the ranch's founder, George Washington Andrews, who moved to the area around 1865, and drove a wagon that delivered lumber from Washoe City to the Comstock. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Creator: Bradley and Rulofson
Crissie Caughlin
Crissie Caughlin Crissie Caughlin in August 1917, age 49. She graduated from Nevada State University in 1890 with a degree in business. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Creator: Goodner Date: 1917
Crissie Caughlin and son Rowland, ca. 1904
Crissie Caughlin and son Rowland, ca. 1904 Crissie Caughlin with her son Rowland and an unidentified woman at the Ranch House around 1904. Rowland died in 1914 at age 13. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1904
Syrene Caughlin at the ranch, 1910
Syrene Caughlin at the ranch, 1910 Crissie and William's daughter, Syrene, at the ranch with a goose and goslings in 1910. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1910
Haying on the Ranch
Haying on the Ranch William Caughlin with daughter Syrene and workers on the lower ranch, ca. 1910. The ranch house marked the division point between the lower ranch and upper ranch. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: ca. 1910
The original ranch house
The original ranch house The original Andrews Ranch house, built around 1876. It was later moved about 300 feet northwest to its present site and used as the Bunkhouse. Its construction used indigenous river rock for the foundation and lumber from the vicinity. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
Max Baer and Crissie Caughlin
Max Baer and Crissie Caughlin Heavyweight boxer Max Baer and Crissie Caughlin outside the Ranch House. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
Betsy Caughlin with a horse
Betsy Caughlin with a horse William and Crissie's daughter, Betsy, outside the ranch house on the 4th of July. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
Joe Rondo at the barn
Joe Rondo at the barn Joe Rondo (and dog) on the buckboard in front of a barn on the Caughlin Ranch. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
A loving restoration
A loving restoration During its 1990s renovation, Richard Scharbach extended the house's porch from eight feet to ten feet, replicated the original window trim, renovated the roof, and added a sun deck. Source: Washoe County Assessor
A pastoral setting
A pastoral setting The Caughlin Ranch House received the Reno Historical Resources Commission’s preservation award for a residential structure in 1997. Creator: Steve Ellison Date: 1997

Location

3636 Mayberry Drive, Reno, NV

Metadata

Deb Hinman and Alicia Barber, “Caughlin Ranch House,” Reno Historical, accessed July 19, 2024, https://www.renohistorical.org/items/show/165.