To say that HRPS has been busy over the last nine to ten weeks would be an understatement. Besides our regular schedule of HRPS Board and committee meetings and historic walking tours, we have testified at City Council and various city commission meetings and been interviewed for television spots as our community becomes more aware of our endangered history. That awareness was boosted by the official proclamation of May 2015 as Historic Preservation Month at the May 27 City Council meeting. The City of Reno also restored the Historic Resources Commission's (HRC) Historic Preservation Awards after a four-year hiatus.
During May, a team from Fox 11 created a video for Artown that aired at the end of June. The HRPS segment is over four minutes long and features interviews with me, representing HRPS, and Jim Smith, HRPS tour guide. My interview took place on the Reno Riverwalk and includes some of the last footage of the historic Virginia Street Bridge as its backdrop. Jim was interviewed prior to and during the May 30 Beyond the Arches tour between the Truckee River and the National Automobile Museum. You can watch the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbrLFmn4m5w.
The HRC has had several meetings regarding the Siegel Group's proposed exterior changes to the Hotel El Cortez at 2nd and Arlington. After replacing many of the original windows with vinyl sliders without obtaining a permit, they now want to significantly alter the iconic neon sign that has graced the city's skyline since 1931. The group wants to change the color of the sign and replace the word "Hotel" with "Siegel's." HRPS is working to offer an alternative plan to the Siegel Group and the HRC that would preserve and restore the original red neon sign.
Stewart Park was also on the HRC's agenda. In mid-May, the Reno Parks Department gave permission to Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful to organize a community clean up in Stewart Park in the Wells Avenue Neighborhood Conservation District. The cleanup efforts included the painting of several rocks in the park's rock wall in bright neon colors; the historic wall was built by the WPA in 1938. This action outraged residents of the surrounding neighborhood, many of whom who were involved with establishing the conservation district and who worked on the historic wall's restoration in 2011. The city will be hiring a contractor experienced in paint removal to remove the neon paint without damaging the wall.
City officials have taken note that residents interested in Reno's historic preservation, including representatives from HRPS, have been attending and offering public comment at H RC and Recreation and Parks Commission meetings. Alicia Barber, Barrie Schuster, Cindy Ainsworth and I were invited to share our concerns at a June 16 meeting of the City's Executive Team. This gave us the opportunity to educate the heads of city departments about historic preservation and to open the lines of communication between historic preservationists and department heads. Cindy brought enough copies of the summer 2015 FootPrints to give to everyone in attendance. The Code Enforcement Manager was appreciative of the HRPS Endangered Building Watch List, and will work to ensure that he will be alerted whenever permits for work on any of these buildings are applied for. HRPS is encouraging the City toward funding a full-time historic preservation officer to facilitate cooperation and preservation in the future.
In early June, HRPS received a request to submit comments to an environmental and cultural resources consultant for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs regarding proposed modifications at the VA Sierra Nevada Health Care Systems (VASNHCS) hospital on Kirman Avenue in Southeast Reno. These modifications include closing a section of Kirman and demolishing homes on 11 parcels between Belli Drive and Balzar Circle to build a parking lot. Barrie Schuster, former HRPS board member and currently chair of the HRPS Advisory Advocacy Committee, is a Wells Avenue neighborhood activist. She has been attending neighborhood meetings concerning the proposed changes, and wrote an excellent letter for HRPS to submit. We hope the VA can come up with an alternative solution for increased parking, as the demolition of homes for paved parking lots has a negative impact on neighborhoods.
HRPS offered 10 Historic Tours during July Artown and in spite of the crazy monsoon season in Northern Nevada, our July 4 tour, Mansions on the Bluff, drew a record number of 124 people. Just as I discovered HRPS through Artown in 2007, people continue to become aware of HRPS and our community's history through Artown.
In closing, HRPS welcomes Joan Dyer, Prudence Gould Muran, Mike & Karen Traynor, Michael & Karren Smith and Robert Stoldal as our seven newest Lifetime members. They join 33 other couples and individuals who have made this commitment to HRPS. Income from Lifetime memberships is used to support HRPS Neighborhood Preservation Fund.
Byllie D'Amato Andrews