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HERITAGE PEOPLE, HOMES AND HISTORY of Old Southwest Reno

IN THIS ISSUE HOMES BY MAIL

ON THE HEAVY SIDE

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Tour a mail order home from Sears

Meet author and neighbor, Ben Rogers

Will Newlands Park get a new name?



HERITAGE Winter 2020

EDITOR/DESIGNER/PUBLISHER

Patrick Turner WRITERS/EDITORS

Alissa Turner Kaitlyn Turner CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS

Dave Donnelly Photography Jeff Dow Photography + Motion ADVERTISING

To advertise in HERITAGE e-mail info@heritagemagazine.org or call 775-560-5505 ©2020 HERITAGE. All rights reserved. Printed in the USA. No part of this magazine may be used or reproduced without written permission from the publisher. Products and services advertised are not necessarily endorsed by HERITAGE, its affiliates or partners—questions and complaints should be forwarded directly to the advertiser. Editorial correspondence can be sent to info@heritagemagazine.org.

COVER PHOTO

PUBLISHER’S LETTER

Its cold outside! There’s a fresh chill in the air and the eaves of homes throughout the neighborhood are starting to dance with the twinkle of bright little lights. It’s hard to believe that 2020 is nearing its end. This issue marks the fourth since I started this publication. I continue to be encouraged by the feedback each issue brings. I am so happy to hear that Old Southwest residents are finding HERITAGE entertaining and informative. Old Southwest resident Ben Rogers, who is profiled in this issue, told me he reads every issue, cover-to-cover. Quite a compliment from such a talented writer. I am also grateful for the support of the local businesses who have chosen HERITAGE as part of their marketing efforts. Without their support, I would not be able to continue to publish and distribute the magazine free to neighborhood residents. When you’re embarking on your Christmas shopping, I hope you’ll consider the businesses who advertise in HERITAGE first. As always, if you have a suggestion for something you’d like to see in an upcoming issue, feel free to e-mail info@heritagemagazine.org. Sincerely,

Patrick Turner, Publisher

P.S. See more from HERITAGE on Facebook and Craftsman-style bungalow located on Marsh Avenue owned by Darin Dinsmore, originally built in 1929.

Instagram. Just search for Heritage Magazine.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

6 Homes by Mail Order Imagine ordering a home the way we order books on the Internet today.

10 On the Heavy Side Meet author, nano scientist and neighbor, Ben Rogers.

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12 What’s in a Name? Residents and the City of Reno grapple with Francis G. Newlands’ racist history.

14 Brekhus Wins Third Term A quick Q&A with Reno City Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus on her recent re-election and plans for her third term.

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Photos: Dave Donnelly Photography


HISTORIC HOMES

Mail Order Homes from Sears These days, especially in the midst of a pandemic, we don’t think twice about going online to order the necessities. Books, food, toiletries, housewares, you name it. But can you imagine living in 1908 and ordering something as substantial and personal as a home, from a catalog? Thanks to the “Sears Book of Modern Homes and Building Plans,” that’s just what people did. Even here in Old Southwest Reno. In 1906, a gentleman by the name of Frank W. Kushel, a manager at Sears, Roebuck and Company, was given responsibility for the catalog company’s unprofitable building materials department. Sales were down, and there was excess inventory just sitting in warehouses.

Kushel is credited with suggesting to Richard Sears that the company assemble kits of all the parts needed and sell entire houses by mail order. Sears catalogs were already being delivered to millions of homes nationwide, giving Sears a distinct advantage over many of its competitors who were also attempting to sell kit-built homes. The company was able to promote its home plans to large numbers of prospective customers through its already popular general merchandise catalog. Homes ordered from Sears were typically shipped by railroad to the nearest depot and then trucked to the HERITAGE

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buyer’s home site for construction by the homeowner or a contractor. Plumbing, electrical fixtures and heating systems were not included in the base price of the house but could be included, at an additional cost. When the kits were first offered, lumber was delivered in raw, uncut lengths. Later, the company began selling kits with precut lumber which reduced a customer’s construction time by up to 40 percent. Reno’s Old Southwest boasts several examples of Sears homes. One such example that is quite well-preserved sits on Marsh Avenue, between Gordon and Nixon, and belongs to Darin Dinsmore. The home, known in 1929 as the “The Elsmore” design, originally sold for $1,945. When first built, the home contained two bedrooms, one bathroom and a large living room with adjacent dining room. Beginning in 2006, Darin spent eight years remodeling and updating the home based on inspiration from a book titled, “The Not So Big House.” The home now contains three bedrooms including a large upstairs master suite, two bathrooms, an office, and formal living room with brick fireplace. Much of the original craftsman detail has been restored. Darin took great care in preserving the charm of the home while also adjusting it to suit the way a modern family lives. Sears stopped publishing its Modern Homes catalog in 1940, however Sears kit-built homes continued to be sold until late 1942. Many homes from the catalog have been identified and are still in existence today all over

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Newspaper advertisement for “The Elsmore,” a kit-built home offered by Sears Roebuck and Company

the United States. Several Sears homes are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The legacy of Darin’s Sears catalog home here in Reno’s Old Southwest lives on. The home is currently in escrow and is expected to be sold to a new owner in early December.


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HERITAGE PEOPLE, HOMES AND HISTORYof Old Southwest Reno


MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR

A Little on the Heavy Side Seduction, intrigue and betrayal —just some of what you’ll find in author and Old Southwest Reno resident Ben Roger’s latest literary thriller, titled “The Heavy Side.” This is Ben’s second novel and his fourth book. In addition to his most recent book, and another titled “The Flamer,” Ben was also the lead author of two award-winning books on nanotechnology. Ben’s career as a writer began as many do, by first being a reader. When asked how he got his start writing novels, Ben replied, “You know, writing little stories in dull pencil on one side of a gray piece of ruled, elementary-school paper. Later, studying journalism. Eventually, the lengths of my stories grew, and I tricked myself into thinking that spending five years writing the same story was a normal and enjoyable pursuit.”

more illegal, lucrative enterprise (assassination or robbery). I wondered, what could I write about that might follow a similar structure, and next thing I knew I was writing about coding software and selling cocaine!” By day, Ben is the Director of Engineering at NevadaNano, a Reno-based company that develops and manufactures microelectro mechanical systems (MEMS) based sensor modules and subsystems for a diverse array of commercial and government applications. Ben likens his job to surfing and describes it as hard and fun. “I don’t get to play in the lab, myself, like I used to. The company makes a new kind of sensor that detects and identifies gases—it’s way cooler than it sounds.”

Ben, his wife Jill, and their daughters, Sydney and Quinn, Ben’s inspiration for “The Heavy have lived in the Old Southwest Side” came from two movies: since 2010. One of their favorite “The American” (starring George things to do in the neighborhood Clooney) and “Drive” (starring From left to right: Jill, Ben, Quinn and Sydney Rogers, Old is hang out on their front porch, Ryan Gosling). Ben watched the Southwest residents since 2010 watching the world go by. They movies and then read both also enjoy playing in the mountains: skiing, biking, books. He said, “The thing that I glommed onto about running, walking and swimming. And, Ben’s motivation these stories was the idea of a gifted loner who is as a writer continues. He is currently working on a third highly artistic in his particular craft – one builds rifles, novel set in Virginia City in the 1860’s. the other is a getaway driver – which enables a much

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Defaced marker at Newlands Park on Thursday, November 5, 2020. The City of Reno promptly removed the red paint the following day.

NEIGHBORHOOD NEWS

What’s in a Name? Since its launch in June, the change.org petition to rename Newlands Park on California Avenue and remove the monument to former Nevada Senator Francis G. Newlands has received more than 2,000 signatures. The petition states that although Senator Newlands was a significant figure in the creation of the American West, his beliefs in white supremacy were extreme, even for his time, making him unworthy of a memorial.

Bill Rowley, professor emeritus of the History Department at the University of Nevada, Reno and author of “Reclaiming the Arid West: The Career of Francis G. Newlands,” stunned some RGJ readers when he advocated for changing the name of the park (July 30, 2020). Regarding Newlands, Rowley stated that, “There is no getting around that his racist thinking, so prominent in his public speeches and writings, has tainted the Newlands legacy.”

The petition and resulting local media coverage of the effort sparked a debate amongst Old Southwest Reno residents as well as other members of the Reno/Sparks community. The debate played out on nextdoor.com and in the pages of the Reno Gazette Journal (RGJ) where several Reno residents submitted opinions on why the park should or shouldn’t be renamed.

In opposition to the name change, Reno native Ron Blakemore sent a letter to the RGJ (August 11, 2020) arguing that the park’s name should be retained to, “Honor the deeds rather than condemn the words,” of Senator Newlands.

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Bin Bin Erwin, the Old Southwest resident who started the petition, is encouraged by the support it has


received. She said, “Very few people knew that Francis G. Newlands was a white supremacist and now we can no longer deny that fact. We appreciate the large number of Reno residents who are supportive of addressing systemic racism in our community.” When asked about the opposition expressed on social media, Bin Bin said, “We found that engaging through social media wasn’t productive and at times lacked civility. After trying to participate in a few of those discussions, we decided that we would be better served by having in-person meetings with small groups of neighbors.” Following the escalation of the discussion, staff at the City of Reno drafted updated guidelines for naming or renaming City streets, parks and other facilities. In a meeting held via Zoom on August 13, 2020, the Historic Resources Commission, Human Rights Commission, and Recreation and Parks Commission reviewed the proposed guidelines. In a memo submitted by City of Reno planning manager, Claudia Hanson, she noted with regard to the park and monument to Senator Newlands, “The second one is the remains of a monument located within the deed restricted Newlands Park. This monument and the associated park and playground were dedicated and deed restricted by the widow and daughters of Francis G. Newlands, in memoriam.” Local historian Alicia Barber provided HERITAGE with a document she submitted to Claudia Hanson in response to the City’s draft guidelines. In the document, Barber states, “The last thing the City of Reno should want is for residents who find themselves and their homes impacted by this policy to learn, only after it has been approved, that they could have played a role in its formulation. With that in mind, I urge you to either pause this process, or initiate a public awareness campaign to ensure that all Reno citizens have the ability to contribute their thoughts, as I have here.” Both the draft procedure from the City and the feedback from Alicia Barber call for public input before a City facility like Newlands Park is renamed. So, perhaps for now the social media banter about the name and monument at Newlands Park will be put on pause until the City refines the process for addressing history we may or may not wish to commemorate.

Victorian Radicals FROM THE PRE-RAPHAELITES TO THE ARTS AND CRAFTS MOVEMENT

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Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts & Crafts Movement is organized by the American Federation of Arts and Birmingham Museums Trust. This exhibition is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding provided by Clare McKeon and the Dr. Lee MacCormick Edwards Charitable Foundation.

Donald W. Reynolds Center for the Visual Arts E. L. Wiegand Gallery 160 West Liberty Street in downtown Reno, Nevada

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Beata Beatrix, begun 1877 (left unfinished in 1882 and complete by Ford Madox Brown), Oil on canvas, 48 7/16 x 40 15/16 x 3 13/16 inches (framed). Collection Birmingham Museums Trust, Purchased, 1891


ELECTION NEWS

Brekhus Wins Third City Council Term In a race that ultimately saw the two candidates separated by less than 100 votes, Jenny Brekhus has been elected to serve a third term as the Ward 1 representative on the Reno City Council. Not long after the election was certified, HERITAGE reached out to Jenny with a few questions about her re-election and plans for her third term.

Reno City Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus Photo: Jeff Dow

Q: In your third term on the City Council, do you have anything in particular you plan to focus on? A: We are a city manager form of government, meaning that the city manager is the chief executive who runs all day-to-day operations of the city. I first started with the City of Reno as a planner in 1998 after working for two New Mexico cities. So far in my career, I’ve worked with six city managers and three interim managers. The importance of a successful city manager cannot be overestimated. In the time that I’ve been in Reno, the management of city government has declined. This is attributable to the overspending in the early 2000’s and the Great Recession that resulted in a reduction of about a third of the city’s workforce and made Reno a difficult city to manage. These legacy issues also hamper Reno’s ability to meet the challenges of growth. While he was not my first choice for manager because he did not come to the job with experience, I am invested in city manager Thornley’s success even if this means taking a step back in some of the priorities I personally would like to see implemented. Q: It was a close election, do you have anything you’d like to relay to your opponent, JD Drakulich? A: I congratulate him on a race well run and encourage him to stay involved.

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Q: Do you have anything you’d like to say to your Ward 1 constituents? A: Please stay in touch and reach out to me on any issues of importance to you. While I work tirelessly to be responsive to constituents’ requests, I also approach this job, to some degree, from an academic perspective because I was educated as a city planner and in public administration. For this reason, I love to share my enthusiasm about cities and discuss with people the inner working components that make a city successful. Councilwoman Brekhus can be reached by phone at 775-334-2011, or by e-mailing brekhusj@reno.gov.


As Seen in the Neighborhood Did you capture a great photo from around the neighborhood? Share it by tagging HERITAGE on Facebook or Instagram, or by using the hashtag #HeritageMag.

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