This courthouse was the third for Washoe County, established in 1861 as
one of the original nine counties in the Nevada territory. Myron Lake
donated land in 1871 for the first Reno courthouse, in anticipation of
Reno wresting county seat status from Washoe City some 20 miles to the
south. The original Reno courthouse, built of red brick in 1871-1873,
still stands as an internal component of the building we see today. In
1909, Frederic DeLongchamps won the design competition for the new courthouse,
the first solo commission of his career. The building is Classical Revival
with Beaux Arts influence, featuring decorative elements in terra cotta.
A copper dome with ribs ending in fanciful brackets crowns the courthouse.
The building's interior includes an American Indian mural by Robert Caples
at the main entrance and two Hans Meyer-Kassel oils under the stained
glass dome on the second floor.
Washoe County Courthouse
Photo by Charles Miller,
Courtesy of Nevada State Historic Preservation Office
During the 1930s, when divorce was the primary industry for Reno, nearly
33,000 divorces were granted in these courtrooms. Famous Life Magazine
photographer Alfred Eisenstadt took a photograph of a young woman kissing
one of these pillars. The posed picture appeared on the front cover of
the June 21, 1937, edition of Life. Additions have been made to
the Courthouse in 1946, 1949 and 1960. Frederic DeLongchamps designed
each of the additions. The courthouse has been restored with assistance
from the National Park Service's Historic Preservation Fund grants. Courtroom
No. 1, the scene of action during Reno's divorce heyday, is currently
Historic postcard of Washoe County
Courtesy of Joy Fisher, USGenWeb Penny Postcard Collection
The Washoe County Courthouse is located at 117 South Virginia St.
in Reno. It is open to the public, Monday-Friday, 8:00am to 5:00pm.