An open letter – 2019

cropped-slimI am a Christian Scientist.
I first visited the building on the Truckee River at the foot of Ralston Street in 1946. It flooded in the Reno Flood 1950, and I helped my dad mop up that mess. I – with other children – was mesmerized by an elegant, soft-spoken Black man – gentle, extremely tall, slender and clad in a crisp white suit and Homburg. His name was Paul Revere Williams; the year was 1951. 

He showed us some drawings in his valise including his pen-and-ink drawing of theChrisScien building, which through a circuitous path came into my possession 50 years later. I still have it, along with a dozen 11×17″ photographs of the site prior to and during its construction, with some trees that were donated to the U.S. Post Office downtown.

These photos I offered to the Theater Coalition c. 2002, but they were refused: “Mrs. Lear is the only person who gets her name on the building.” Oh.

The First Church of Christ, Scientist occupied the building quietly for over 60 years. Twenty years following its sale, an amount of donated money, some say $10 million, others peg it closer to $17 million, but in any case it’s a large amount of money to account for, for a decaying building that still can’t be occupied by the public.

I read some years ago that the building was turned over to the only operator in town who could possibly abuse an asset more than the Theater Coalition had, and just shook my head. At this juncture I’ll voice disagreement with my ol’ buddy Randi Thompson, who asserts that the community deserves better that what they’re receiving. Twenty years ago the community probably did deserve better. But time has passed; funds have been poorly accounted for, and there is no bright spot on the horizon for the property.

The building’s sparkle is gone, and with that its Paul Revere Williams cachet. As is a maritime custom, it seems preferable for the sea to reclaim a vessel when it’s otherwise strong and viable, laying it on the ocean floor through the will of mariners recognizing that its journey is done and scuttling it on purpose with its ensign flying. As opposed to going down in defeat. as the church/theater will surely do.

I’ve written often of the Truckee’s Treasure, an appellation I gave the building in a 2002 column. I remain like a family member of the surviving grandchildren of the lady who located and hired Williams, and who endowed the construction of the church. None of these grandchildren reside in Reno. Now, through disuse, decay and an element of distrust by the public, and I’m probably the last person who should advocate this, but, my vote would be for an intentional razing of the asset, with an element of honor.

2 thoughts on “An open letter – 2019

  1. Karl, I did not know all the history of this wonderful building, thanks for the update

    Dee Garrett

  2. It’s a beautiful old building on the river and I tend to agree with you. But, please don’t let the Theatre Coalition get the money from the sale of the property.

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