Topic A for this Saturday is the Elizabeth Babcock Memorial Kindergarten, named for a schoolmarm/émigré from Carson City. “The Babcock” opened for the 1901 school year in an attractive private building on the northeast corner of West Sixth and West Streets. It was operated by the Reno Kindergarten Association. I include it herein and herewith because a day or two I mentioned it in an irreverent column about snow and the current district’s dedication to serious education as opposed to preventing a few children and adults getting the sniffles on a wintry day.
The Babcock Building also served some other municipal uses to generate a little cash flow; per the Nov. 8, 1901 Nevada State Journal “…rooms are available to rent for meetings and socials,” and a U of N fraternity party brought all two of Reno’s Finest out on the night of March 2, 1907 (NSJ).
The school district in those early years was the Reno School District #10, the “10” a number assigned by the state. I’ve written in the past of the existence of eight, sometime expressed as nine if Franktown is included, school districts in Washoe County when the Washoe County School District was created in July 1956, combining all those districts. Several other archives at the Nevada Historical Society indicate that number to be 17, counting all the one-room schoolhouses in the county.
The Babcock functioned merrily at Sixth and West as a kindergarten until the Reno School District bought the building in May of 1932; conflicting archives point to 1933 (if the world relied on our school district to keep records, Columbus would have discovered Malibu and Washington would have thrown the dollar across the Pecos.) Reno’s kindergarten students were split out into the district’s five Reno schools (the Spanish Quartette and Southside School at Liberty and Center Streets.) The Babcock Building became the head-shed for the Reno district and remained so after the WCSD was created in 1956. Regrettably, in the 1950s the classic brick building we remember in our 1940s youth, close to our Reno High/Central Jr. High and Mary S. Doten alma maters, got a treatment akin to the blonde Olympian who won a Gold medal and had it bronzed: The new district stuccoed over the ivy-covered Babcock Building. Yikes!
The Washoe County School District remained headquartered in the old building, even after the Babcock was sold to the West Sixth Medical Building Group in October 1961. The “new” district moved into the East Ninth Street “Greenhouse” in January of 1962, built right smack in the middle of our athletic field – the original Foster Field, darn ‘em – where we trekked from all over town to play ball, held our fantastic and talented pet parades, our school picnics, and tried not to get caught tubing down the nearby English Mill Ditch.
As always happens to Reno’s most elegant old buildings with any history, the Elizabeth Babcock Memorial Kindergarten was razed in March of 1966. But “the Babcock” – the education envisioned by early members of the 20th Century Club and the classic building they built to provide it, live on in the great pantheon of Reno’s heritage.
(By-the-by, “NSJ” appearing somewhere in the preceding text and most of these yarns is Breckenridge shorthand for the Nevada State Journal; one may also see “REG” if I neglect to extricate it, Reno Evening Gazette. These papers were combined in 1983 to the present Reno Gazette-Journal.)