The Orr Ditch Inverted Siphon


For many a moon I’ve attempted to write a bit more about the Orr Ditch siphon – I’ve always been able to find just enough to tantalize readers but not really make a worthwhile, definitive column about the late-1950s structure added to the grand lady of Reno’s irrigation ditches, the Orr.

            The Orr rolls along north of the Truckee’s stream and terminates finally in far Spanish Springs. In the days pre-University of Nevada (the University was established in Reno in 1887, after the Orr’s construction) the Orr crossed Virginia Street and then flowed across the campus, west-to-east, crossing a low point in the campus east of Virginia.1 A flume carried the water across that gully until Mother Earth again rose to meet the flume, and the ditch then flowed eastward, then, following the terrain, turned to the north and went well into the (non-existent) campus. Turning to the east, it then was routed south, forming a big “U” and finally turning to cross future Evans Avenue, just at the top of the hill east of the present Fleischmann Agriculture Building. Clear as Mud? Continue reading

The Magnificent Twelve

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I was hoping to fulfill a reader’s request for a shot of the old Reno Laundry on Wells Avenue that’s happily being gentrified, but no go, as in no picture yet today with the afternoon pretty well shot.

SOOOOOOOO – you get a couple that I’ve had in my computer for a long time, always thinking they ought to be drug out and published, that there was a link between them somehow. (I’m already in the doghouse about a story about the Bishop’s Bendix in San Francisco, this beef coming all the way from Australia.) At this juncture, I remind viewers, this column is mostly about Reno, a bit of San Francisco, and precious little about Australia.

Reno Laundry, soon…

A Reno landmark; a well-kept secret…


A lovely early spring day today, I went for a walk that took me down Hillcrest Drive between Lakeside and South Virginia. The incredibly beautiful rockwork on the south side of the street, an old ranch house that one has to picture standing by itself when South Virginia was the dirt “Purdy Highway,” Plumb Lane was non-existent, Lakeside Drive to the west was a wagon path not known as Lakeside, for there was no Virginia Lake – that’s when this little dude ranch came to be.

The rockwork could be replicated today only at considerable expense and with some effort to find artisans who could do it; it was probably done by the Indian (yes, Indian, not Native American!) kids from Stewart Indian School outside Carson City. God knows who the architect was, if there was an architect. I should have photographed the “lighthouse” behind it to the south, maybe I’ll go back and snap it over the weekend.

It won’t be there long, sadly. Go by an take a look, a long look, at the rockwork that’s such a part of Reno’s history that rock-by-rock is departing from the scene. And come back in a few days, to see a photo of the “lighthouse” behind this old treasure.