On Friday March 1, 2013 at 12:00 pm at the corner of Holcomb Avenue and Roberts Street, the City of Reno will host an inaugural event to celebrate the adoption of the Wells Avenue Neighborhood Conservation District. A Conservation District is a type of district that recognizes the historical significance of a neighborhood without the regulations of an Historic District. Reno has one other Conservation District; Powning’s Addition.
The Public Works Department will be onsite to install the first of numerous signs planned to designate the district. The signs were made possible by donations from Historic Reno Preservation Society www.historicreno.org and the Ward 3 Neighborhood Advisory Board. The design of the signage was donated by Sadie Bonnette of Sasquaack Design.
The boundaries of the Conservation District are Holcomb Avenue to the west, Locust Street to the east, Ryland Avenue to the north and Vassar Street to the south. A detailed survey of the entire district was required prior to the approval and adoption of the district. Every parcel and structure within the boundaries was photographed and documented by dozens of volunteers including members of the 2010 UNR Planning Club and residents of the Wells Avenue Neighborhood. The raw survey material was compiled and edited into its final form by UNR history students Ashley Best and Morgan Waldrup who were awarded the HRPS (Historic Reno Preservation Society) Endowment Scholarship in 2011 and 2012. The entire process has taken several years.
The Wells Avenue Neighborhood contains some of the oldest homes in Reno south of the river. It has many fine examples of Queen Anne Revival and Craftsman architecture as well as an association with numerous interesting former prominent Renoites. The neighborhood was first developed into buildable lots around 1900 when Sheldon Wells’ sheep ranch was subdivided by his son in law Samuel Wheeler after his death. By 1907, Charles Burke had purchased and subdivided adjacent ranch land and the neighborhood began to take shape. The Virginia and Truckee railroad ran along Holcomb Avenue until 1950 and in 1908 Charles Burke paid to extend the electric trolley line from downtown along Moran Street to Wells Avenue where it ended at Cheney Street. Many of the neighborhood’s former residents enjoyed trolley service until 1927.
The Wells Avenue Neighborhood of today has experienced a renewed interest among homeowners and business owners. Groups like the Wells Avenue Merchants and Property Owners Association www.wellsavenuemerchants.com The West of Wells Neighborhood Group www.westofwells.com and East of Wells Neighborhood Group www.eastofwells.com have organized and reinstated a culture of neighborhood pride which has led to noticable improvement. The Conservation District will promote and reinforce the activities of these groups while recognizing the unique history of the area. Future goals for the district include the development of a self guided historic walking tour brochure which will have an online component and the installation of several brick and stone monuments which will identify historic places throughout the district..