Well, we’re back to business around the house and the youthful miscreants from the Sunnyside/Whitaker/Vine/Peavine/Keystone ‘hoods are hard at it at Mary S. Doten and Central Jr. High schools. The Novelly brothers, Orville, Raymond and Orfeo, are building houses right and left up West Seventh Street, and Wesley Weichmann and George Probasco are on fire also, building east of Peavine Row. In a few years I’ll have to call Peavine Row “Keystone” when they bring that old street north of the SP tracks through the old Reno Press Brick quarry. Reno is booming!
Mom and some of her friends are all worked up about a home show that’s going on next weekend. Six owners of nice houses have agreed to open their homes up and let people buy tickets to see them. The addresses of the homes are on the picture they sent out which I’ll try to attach above this mimeographed sheet you’re reading. (I’m writing this in 1949 but have to admit that you’re liable to think I have vision into the future, because I’m throwing all chronology out or I’ll never get this done!)
A bunch of people called the Historic Reno Preservation Society do this every year, and con a half-dozen Reno homeowners to contribute their homes, as I wrote. I type “contribute” because the proceeds of HRPS’s Harvest of Homes tour goes to some eleemosynary purpose like funding grants to beautify our burg. Most of the homes on display have some history or providence [which my ol’ buddy Mike Robinson wrote to say that I probably meant to write “provenance,” and he’s right] attached to them; above there’s a house on a street called Mayberry which once was called “Shewmaker” and long before that was the “Verdi Road.” I’ve learned in my nine years on earth that many streets in Reno got their names from where they went – “Valley Road” went to Surprise Valley north of town, “California Avenue” went to California, the “Purdy Highway” – early Virginia Street – went to Purdy north by Susanville and so on. The Verdi Road went to Verdi.
The house on Mayberry is evocative (pretty big word for a nine-year-old, huh?!) of the tour. It had some shady dealings and owners for many years until a few years ago. Tim Elam and his wife Joan own it now. It opened as a resort just after the turn of the last century and was hell and gone (Dad says that but I’m not supposed to!) west of Reno and was a training camp for the “Fight of the Century” Johnson-Jeffries boxing match even although the century was only 10 years old. After that some bad guys named Graham and McKay ran it as a gambling spot and night-club called The Willows in the Thirties. The CIA could learn from them both, of keeping pictures out of the history of a place – I’ve looked for years for pictures of The Willows, but nada. The Elams have done a lot of work on it and bought a couple cabins from an old downtown Reno motor court and installed them in the back yard.
It’s quite a house – “Enchanted Gardens,” it’s known as, and really worth seeing. I got Mom’s mailer about the tour and am off to see some of these places on my bike before all those grownups get there on Saturday.
The members of HRPS, Historic Reno, oh, you know, do quite a job with the history of each house on the tour – the years they were built, the builder,, the architect, the owners of the homes and a little vignette about the owner or the house, like the two on Wonder Street and their link to Tony Pecetti. He owns the El Patio Ballroom down by the fire station where all the grownups who live in Reno, not the tourists who drive here, go to dance on weekend nights. It adds a lot of color to each house to know a little bit about it. I’m too little to go to the El Patio but any place whose motto is “Swing and Sweat with Tony Pa-chett” has to be a joint I’ll go to when I grow up.
The Pecetti pair of homes are on Wonder Street near my friends’ house on the top of the hill which, looking in my crystal ball, would become Baileywick’s burger joint in the years to come, and even deeper in the ball I see the Silver Peak Brewery in that old house. I pedal over that way but get held up by a V&T train on the tracks on Holcomb Street. That train will only run for one more year…
Not too far away is another house open next weekend, at 619 Sinclair Street. That’s a neat Reno neighborhood now in 1949 as I write this. I wrote you one time about the four Reno elementary schools – the 1911 “Four Sisters” or as Walter Van Tilburg Clark wrote in that new book of his, the “Spanish Quartette,” but there is one elementary school in Reno ten years older than those four, “Southside School,” on Liberty and Center Streets. This Southside neighborhood is the nicest in Reno now, and the open house on Sinclair was built a year or so before Southside School. Dad and Mom know Dr. Hilts, the veterinarian who lives there now. It’s a nice house, more of a mini-apartment as this tour kicks off.
Two of the homes on the tour this weekend are in southwest Reno – the one at 1118 Nixon Avenue arguably the most attractive, at least to this nine-year-old following a bike ride across town. It’s got some beautiful trees and is in a neighborhood that’s developing nicely. The HRPS group’s handout is a beauty to read, even for a nine-year-old, and is typical of the monumental amount of research put into the tours, with the original owners’ names, architects, contractors, and quirky stuff like the fact that this home was once, briefly, a high-end school teaching dancing, French and singing, a virtual boarding school. Also in the handout is the account of burglars raiding a refrigerator in a garage, and another telling of a blonde Norwegian “Viking of the Air” who apparently turned down more than most men got in 1932.
Truly, a Reno classic house. And unbeknownst to anyone in 1932, a house that will be a half-block from mine 80-some years later.
A strong element of the tours is the knowledge and the training of the HRPS volunteers, who walk visitors through each accessible area of the homes (some areas of some homes may not be open, owing to privacy concerns or inaccessibility in conformance with ADA and safety standards). Those docent volunteers participate in many hours of preparation and are afforded the benefit and knowledge assembled following an incredible amount of research by a lady who I don’t believe was born as I write this in 1949. Her name is Debbie Hinman. And those 130-or-so volunteers are organized by a three-year-old named Linda Patrucco Doerr, a task the equivalent of herding cats. Carol Coleman is the boss of the whole shebang. There are a lot of yet-unborn or youthful people and parts to this puzzle in 1949. I, at age nine, will be stationed on the patio of the final house to be included in this tour, at 1300 Humboldt Street.
It’s a vintage Hancock & Hancock home, (we all know of the second Hancock, Melville D. who built some of the finest homes in southwest Reno in the latter half of the 20th century.) This home was designed and built by the earlier Hancock, Mel’s dad Homer, in 1940. The program calls him “Charles,” his first name, for which the writer of the program would be shot. He liked “Homer,” with his two brothers Heber and Hiram.
And that’s the kind of little-known stuff you’ll pick up next Saturday. Did I mention that local antique cars – the age of each home – will be parked in the homes’ driveways? I meant to…
Mom will be roaming around somewhere; come see me at 1300 Humboldt. My blue Schwinn will be on the sidewalk.
Tickets for this all-day show are available at Sundance Books & Music, Moana Nursery, Marcy’s Gallery and Gifts, Labels Consignment Bowteek, St. Ives Florist and Rail City Garden Center.