C I T Y H . . .

Reno's City Hall in 1907
Image courtesy of Jerry Fenwick

Five letters—that's all that is left of the wonderful, native-granite sign that hung above the entrance of Reno's 1907 city hall building. That once-impressive civic headquarters stood at the northwest corner of First and Center streets for 56 years and is now fading from our memories. Five letters. It's not much, but it's something. When the old building was demolished in November of 1963, the discarded materials were dumped along the Truckee River, just north of Glendale Avenue and east of U.S. 395 (in the area of today's new Walmart building). Here's the fun part of history. Jump ahead 46 years to 2009 and we find the Truckee Meadows Flood Project contractors, Campbell Construction Company, working on a flood control levee in the same spot.

Satellite view of old city hall dump site along the Truckee RiverAccording to an RGJ.com article published on February 26, 2009, Mike Davis, the superintendent for the levee work said, "The whole building was dumped here. There were mountains of it." Eric Moody, who at the time was the acting director of the Nevada Historical Society, said, "It's definitely exciting. I don't think anybody expected pieces of the city hall to turn up where they did," and Mella Harmon, the curator of history for the Nevada Historical Society at the time stated, "It shows you the life and death cycle of buildings," and "...they're on the lookout for the A and two Ls."

Truckee River flood wall near Glendale Avenue

Well, it's been about seven years now since the discovery and the flood project work in that area has long been completed. Who knows if the missing letters will ever turn up. I was intrigued when I read in that article that the sign was being stored at the Nevada State Railroad Museum. I asked Mella about that and she told me the Nevada Historical Society didn't have the means to transport the sign, so the railroad museum folks stepped in and hauled it off to Carson City. She said it "was never intended to be in Carson City permanently." Up for an adventure last November, Rosie Cevasco and I decided to trek down to Carson City and try to find the old sign. A few employees there agreed that a city hall sign from a Reno building didn't sound like something they would store there, but we found it lying on the ground in a large fenced-in lot behind the main building. Hopefully the "CITY H" sign finds its way back to Reno and the "A and two Ls" join it sometime in the future.

The remains of the granite Reno City Hall sign resting at the Nevada State Railroad Museum

[Note: A little more history about the 1907 Reno City Hall building can be found in the Winter 2016 FootPrints newsletter article about the Reno Police Headquarters Building on 2nd Street.]

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  • Paula Riley

    Who'd a thunk it? One slice of Reno history lost and found and lost again (though we now know where it resides). Do you suppose that if someone were to make new letters (thinking here of orange A-L-L) to complete it, Reno could bring it home? How about Secundo Vita, the developer with its eye on a downtown zone -- I'm picturing installation art - why not? Thanks for the interesting piece of history. I love this stuff!

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