I will not go to Reno for the high school reunion this Friday and Saturday. And I am at peace with my decision.
Peace is what shines forth from this vintage postcard of my hometown. Of course I never saw it when it looked like this. There isn't a description on the back, but it appears that the Riverside Hotel pictured here is the building owned by a man named Harry Gosse that preceded the 1927 structure of great renown.
The Riverside Hotel sits on the exact location where Reno began in 1859. C.W. Fuller operated a log building here that provided food and shelter to gold-seekers who were passing through the area in the reverse gold rush called the "Rush to Washoe," spurred by the gold, and later silver, strikes of the famous Comstock Lode. Myron Lake owned the property from 1861 into the 1880s, running consecutive hotel businesses under the name Lake's House. After Lake's death, his daughter and son-in-law operated the hotel and renamed it the Riverside. A subsequent owner, Harry Gosse, converted the small frame building into a lavish brick hotel, retaining the name Riverside. This version of the Riverside Hotel was destroyed in a fire. Gosse intended to rebuild but was unable to finance the project and George Wingfield, Reno's most powerful man at the time, acquired the property.
Nevada's pre-eminent architect and former mining engineer Frederic DeLongchamps designed the 1927 version of the Riverside Hotel for George Wingfield. At six stories high, the Riverside was Reno's tallest building at the time of its construction. For the building's design, DeLongchamps employed the rich red brick, so common in Reno, with contrasting cream-colored Gothic Revival style terra cotta detailing. Situated as it is along the picturesque Truckee River, next to the Washoe County Courthouse, also designed by DeLongchamps, it is easy to see why the Riverside was Reno's most elegant and popular hotel. Following the passage of the liberal 1931 divorce law, George Wingfield installed an enormous roof sign advertising the hotel in glowing neon that was visible all over the Truckee Meadows. The Riverside had an international reputation and was mentioned in nearly all of the novels and films featuring Reno divorces.
-National Park Service (click for full article and photos of the hotel)
Reno was a quiet little city when I was a kid, but by the time I was a student at the University of Nevada, and attended a fraternity dance at the Riverside Hotel, the city was changing.... and it hasn't stopped growing since, to the point of now being totally unrecognizable to me in some areas.
The essence of Reno howls in the wind, though, possibly hoping to reclaim the valley sometime in the far future. After all, nothing lasts forever, including the casino-hotel monstrosities piled along Virginia Street, creating of Reno what my friend bfk recently described as
a neon cesspit.
But I hold close to my heart the name that Walter Van Tilburg Clark gave it -- The City of Trembling Leaves -- when he wrote so lovingly (click) of the city that still shimmers today in filtered sunshine in old neighborhoods, along the Truckee River, and in city parks. One of those parks will welcome my 1969 classmates on Saturday. I'll be thinking of them from my quiet Oregon town and wishing them peace.