RAPID Lincoln Line
Telling the Story of the 4th Street/Prater Way Corridor
The 4th StreetPrater Way History Project
The 4th Street-Prater Way History Project was initiated by RTC Washoe in 2011 in conjunction with the 4th Street-Prater Way Bus RAPID Transit Project to research the history of the 4th Street-Prater Way corridor and partner with the community to tell its story. Today, that story can be explored in many ways, both physical and virtual. Digital elements include a multimedia website at https://4thprater.onlinenevada.org/ and virtual tours on the Reno Historical and Historic Sparks NV smartphone apps. The community can also enjoy bilingual historical installations inside the RTC 4th Street Station in Reno and RTC Centennial Plaza in Sparks, and visit eight visually stunning historically themed bus stations along the corridor.
A Brief History of 4th Street and Prater Way From County Road to Busy Thoroughfare
Fourth Street and Prater Way are two historic roads that connect to form one of Northern Nevada’s busiest corridors. Fourth Street appeared on Reno’s original map in 1868 and was home to many early lumber yards and other industries. Running parallel to the transcontinental railroad tracks, it continued as a county road on either side of town. When Sparks was founded several miles east of Reno in 1904, a section of the county road bordering the new Prater housing tract was named Prater Way. Eventually the entire Sparks portion of the road adopted that name. The corridor became a busy thoroughfare in the early 20th century. From 1904 to 1927, a streetcar line ran along the road, connecting Reno to Sparks. With the dawn of the automobile age, the road became heavily traveled by residents, commuters, and crosscountry motorists. Designated as the route of the Lincoln Highway in 1913, the corridor (with some variations on the Sparks side) was later known as U.S. 40. It shifted from a highway back to a surface street when Interstate 80 was completed through the area in the mid-1970s. As a longtime tourist route through both towns, the corridor was home to a wide variety of auto camps, hotels, and motels, many lit by brilliant neon signs. Today, the buildings along East 4th Street range in age from the early 1900s to new construction, featuring restaurants, small businesses, industrial workplaces, rental properties, and resident services. On the Sparks side, the mix of businesses and housing found along Prater Way is surrounded to the north and south by neighborhoods, schools, and parks.
The 4th Street-Prater Way History Website: 4thPrater.onlinenevada.org The 4th-Prater History Project website (https://4thprater.onlinenevada.org/) offers a treasure trove of information and photographs related to the people and places of Fourth Street and Prater Way. At its core is an engaging history of the corridor, divided into six time periods: Town Building, The Lincoln Highway Era, U.S. 40 Begins, Postwar Prosperity, Bypassed by I-80, and The New Millennium. Each section includes a slideshow featuring numerous historical photographs and maps. The narratives include links to relevant information found on other websites including the Online Nevada Encyclopedia (https://onlinenevada. org/) and Reno Historical (https://renohistorical.org/).
The 4th-Prater History Project Website.
The website also allows visitors to read the full transcripts or listen to short audio excerpts from the project’s collection of oral histories. Interviews with 43 people representing a broad cross-section of local residents shed light on the history and everyday experience of life along Fourth Street and Prater Way. Conducted in conjunction with the University of Nevada Oral History Program, the complete oral history transcripts and audio files are also available through the Special Collections Department of the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries, along with portraits of the chroniclers. The 4th Street-Prater Way History Project website was created as a partnership between RTC Washoe and Nevada Humanities.
Reno and Sparks Smartphone Apps Two smartphone apps provide digital tours of the corridor. Historic sites along Reno’s Fourth Street are featured on Reno Historical (https://4thprater.onlinenevada.org/), an app and website operated by the Historic Reno Preservation Society (https://historicreno.org/). Entries along the tour feature historical information, historical and contemporary photographs, maps, and audio clips, when available. A virtual tour of historic Prater Way in Sparks can be found on the Historic Sparks NV app, managed by the Sparks Museum and Cultural Center (https://sparksmuseum.org/). Both apps allow users to explore the corridor’s history and architecture while experiencing it in person or from a distance.
3] The Reno Historical (left) and Historic Sparks NV (right) apps.
Traveling the Lincoln Line The Lincoln Line is rich in history, and now several features along the way can enhance our community’s understanding and appreciation of its heritage. Visitors to the RTC 4TH STREET STATION in Reno and RTC CENTENNIAL PLAZA in Sparks can learn about the corridor’s history by viewing permanent indoor displays about the route. Each one features a timeline with highlights from the corridor’s history, along with photographs of some of the people and places that make it special. All information is presented in both English and Spanish. RTC Washoe has launched the RTC RAPID Lincoln Line service on the corridor with four all-electric buses. The service honors the corridor’s rich history with historic images on the bus exteriors. In addition, eight new bus stations along the RTC RAPID route celebrate the historic Lincoln Highway with large collages of photographs spanning the entire backdrop of each stop. This publication describes each station, which features a different theme, with imagery specifically selected to represent the surrounding area. Together, they take the community on a journey through some of the places, stories, and people that contribute to the corridor’s unique identity. The History Display at RTC CENTENNIAL PLAZA.
East 4th Street & Sutro Street – Eastbound The Johnson-Jeffries Fight
Close up of the Johnson-Jeffries Fight bus station shown below.
[4 Imagery at the Johnson-Jeffries Fight bus station – Vance Fox.
This bus station commemorates the famous heavyweight championship fight between Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries, which occurred nearby on July 4, 1910. Johnson, the reigning heavyweight champion, was also African American, which made him the target of enormous racial prejudice. His detractors convinced former champion Jim Jeffries to come out of retirement to challenge him, calling Jeffries the “Great White Hope.” Reno agreed to host the fight after San Francisco backed out, and a massive wooden amphitheater was hastily constructed near the current intersection of East 4th Street and Toano Street, where State Historical Marker #220 now stands. It was the most-publicized sporting event in American history to that date, earning it the title of “The Fight of the Century.” Spectators flocked to Reno, and attendance was estimated at more than 20,000. Nine cameramen documented the event from different angles and live telegraph coverage kept the world riveted. What they witnessed quickly escalated from a few tentative thrusts into a forceful defeat of the former heavyweight champion by the much stronger and more nimble Johnson. Fifteen rounds in, the fight’s promoter, George Lewis “Tex” Rickard recognized that Jeffries was about to collapse and called the bout, crowning Jack Johnson the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
The historic Flanigan Warehouse at 701 East 4th Street, completed in 1902, is now home to Forever Yours Fine Furniture. – Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries.
East 4th Street & Sutro Street – Westbound Business and Industry
Inside the Reno Brewing Company Bottling Plant at 900 East 4th Street. – Nevada Historical Society.
The imagery at this bus station pays tribute to the local industries located on and around East 4th Street. By 1900, the area had become a center of heavy industry including lumber mills and breweries, and in the 1930s it began to fill in with smaller businesses of many kinds. The availability of large parcels of land combined with its proximity to downtown Reno and several railroad lines made it an ideal location for operations involving manufacturing and distribution. Supplies and products could be transported east and west on the transcontinental railroad, or on the Nevada-California-Oregon Railroad, which once carried passengers and freight back and forth between Reno and Lakeview, Oregon. Historic industries on East 4th Street have included the Reno Brewing Company, the Rainier Brewing Company Bottling Plant, Reno Mill & Lumber, the Nevada Packing Company, Martin Iron Works (still in operation), IXL Laundry, the Flanigan Warehouse, and the Alpine Glass Company. Many of their buildings remain standing today. Several, like the N-C-O Railroad Depot and Locomotive Shops, are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, demonstrating the recognized value of the area’s cultural, economic, and architectural heritage.
East 4th Street & Galletti Way – Eastbound Coney Island
This bus station is located near the former site of the Coney Island Resort, which is commemorated by State Historical Marker #240. The popular historic resort began as Wieland’s Park, a three-acre landscaped garden opened in 1906 by Otto Benschuetz. Naming the resort after his workplace, the John Wieland Brewing Company, he constructed picnic structures and a bandstand. Residents traveled to the resort on the streetcar line that ran between Reno and Sparks from 1904 to 1927. In 1909, he renamed the resort Coney Island. Its new centerpiece was an artificial lake that offered boat rentals and racing and was stocked with hundreds of trout. The grounds also featured a children’s playground, dance pavilion, and refreshments. As time passed, the resort’s name was applied to the surrounding neighborhood and businesses that operated there, like the Coney Island Dairy. In 1924, the Coney Island Auto Park became one of the area’s first tourist camps, offering small cottages with shower baths, individual kitchenettes, a gas station, groceries, and auto supplies. The Galletti family opened the Coney Island Tamale Factory across the street in the 1920s, eventually expanding it into a popular restaurant, the Coney Island Bar.
[6 Families gather at the Coney Island Resort, ca. 1910. – Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries.
East 4th Street & Galletti Way – Westbound
Still standing just west of the Wells Avenue overpass, the 1954 El Rancho Motel No. 2 featured a Denny’s Coffee Shop in front. – Steve Ellison Collection.
Long before Nevada became known for large casino resorts, Fourth Street and Prater Way welcomed tourists and travelers of all kinds. Some were drawn by Nevada’s ability to grant quick divorces to out-of-staters. Others sought recreation in the great outdoors. All were welcomed by the many brick hotels that clustered around the railroad depots on Reno’s east side. With the announcement in 1913 that the new Lincoln Highway would run along Fourth Street and Prater Way, lodging options for motor tourists began to spring up along the route. Cross-country auto travelers needed ample space for parking, as well as gasoline, food, and other services and soon the corridor was filled with auto camps, cottages, cabins, and eventually motels, whose bright neon signs competed for visitors’ attention. The tourist business really started to boom when Nevada legalized gambling in 1931. For the next few decades, the corridor was tourist central, boasting familyfriendly motels with swimming pools, cafés, and all the latest amenities. With the completion of Interstate 80 in the mid-1970s, the corridor was no longer on the main tourist route, and most of its tourist lodging became rentals for residents, but many of the hotel and motel buildings remain.
The Park Grocery operated at the corner of Prater Way and 15th Street in Sparks from 1952 to 1988. – Sparks Museum & Cultural Center.
Reno Garage owner Jack Threlkel (in suit) poses with his baseball team at Threlkel Park, the ballpark he built between Reno and Sparks in 1930. – University of Nevada Oral History Program.
An ad for Dick Rock’s Ideal Drugs from the Sparks High School Yearbook, Terminus, in the early 1960s. – Sparks Museum & Cultural Center.
[8 Workers at the Blue Ribbon Meat Company on Prater Way.
Ray’s Drive-In opened at “the Y” in Sparks in 1948, and was later known as the “Big-Y Drive-In.” – Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries.
Prater Way & El Rancho Drive – Eastbound The “Y”
The three-way intersection known today as the “Y” was created in the mid-1930s when B Street (now Victorian Avenue) was extended westward to straighten the route of U.S. 40. The “Y” soon became a popular location for both local and tourist business. Many drive-in establishments popped up around the area, including Ray’s Drive-In (renamed the Big Y in 1956), the Chuck Wagon Drive-In (originally known as Rip’s), the Frost-Top Root Beer Drive-In, and the El Rancho Drive-In Theater. At the heart of it all was Cremer’s Motel, which later transformed into the Pony Express Lodge, marked by a massive neon sign. This entire section of Prater Way from the “Y” to 15th Street has long been a center for family businesses. The Ideal Shopping Center at 18th Street and Prater was opened by photographer Farrel Ross in 1957 as the city’s first neighborhood-style shopping center. Its first store, Dick Rock’s Ideal Drugs, opened the same month as the neighboring Food Mart, and its beauty salon and laundromat were neighborhood favorites, along with nearby Brannin’s Radio and TV.
Prater Way & El Rancho Drive – Westbound Transportation
This bus station pays tribute to all the forms of transportation that have run along 4th Street and Prater Way through the years. The corridor began as a lonely country road extending east from Reno, parallel to the tracks of the Central Pacific (later Southern Pacific) Railroad. Passengers and freight also rode the rails of the Nevada-CaliforniaOregon line, which had a depot and maintenance shops on East 4th Street. After the founding of Sparks in 1904, the region’s first streetcar line was established between the two towns. With an initial fare of 10 cents, the commute took approximately 30 minutes, at the rollicking pace of 10 miles per hour. As automobiles became more popular and more affordable to the average American, the streetcar line struggled to make a profit, and the tracks were removed in 1927. In the meantime, most of the corridor had become the route of the Lincoln and Victory Highways and U.S. 40, making it a busy thoroughfare traveled by automobiles, trucks, and buses driving across town or across the country. From streetcars to today’s electric buses, the Lincoln Line has always been on the cutting edge of transportation. Workers stand alongside a streetcar on the Reno-Sparks line. – Nevada Historical Society.
Prater Way & 15th Street – Eastbound Schools and Neighborhoods
Schools and neighborhoods are the theme of this station located near the intersection of Prater Way and 15th Street. In 1904, Nick Prater donated land north of his namesake street, Prater Way, to the City of Sparks to construct its first public school. Since that time, many schools have been clustered around this area. They have included the early Sparks Grammar and High School, the Kate M. Smith Elementary School (designed by Frederic DeLongchamps and opened in 1924), and the Robert H. Mitchell Elementary School (with the same name given to two different buildings). A new Sparks High School broke ground in 1917 and the Junior High was dedicated in 1925, both at the corner of 15th Street and what is now Victorian Avenue. The intersection of 15th Street and Prater Way has also been home to variety of familyfriendly businesses including Park Grocery, Gepford’s Furniture Store, Dairy Queen, and the Rock Cave Grocery, A&W Root Beer, and the Blue Ribbon Meat Company. Generations of residents and students fondly recall walking through the neighborhood on their way to or from school.
[10 Students pose for a class photo at Robert Mitchell Elementary in 1953. –Sparks Museum & Cultural Center.
Prater Way & 15th Street – Westbound Deer Park
Deer Park was founded even before there was a City of Sparks. First referred to as Highland Park, it was established by real estate developers in 1902 in what was then called East Reno. Soon after, the Southern Pacific Railroad announced plans to move its Wadsworth shops to the area. In December of 1903, six tame deer were purchased and placed in the park, which, along with the adjacent streetcar line, helped to make its neighborhood one of the most desirable locations in town. During the Lincoln Highway era, a section of Deer Park was used as a municipal camp. Tennis courts were added in 1932, but the most popular of the park’s attractions arrived in 1942, with the dedication of the Deer Park swimming pool, constructed by Works Progress Administration labor. The park has been the site of generations of picnics, family reunions, Easter egg hunts, and community festivals, as well as baseball games and concerts. For many years, the traditional Jack’s Carnival parade route ran north on 15th Street to Prater Way and then west to Deer Park for a community fair.
A diver prepares to jump into the Deer Park swimming pool during its dedication festivities on May 30, 1942. – Sparks Museum & Cultural Center.
Proprietor Inez Stempeck inside Casale’s Halfway Club, the restaurant her parents founded halfway between Reno and Sparks in the 1930s. – Patrick Cummings.
About the 4th Street-Prater Way History Project The 4th Street-Prater Way History Project was directed by Dr. Alicia Barber and received the 2015 Award for Outstanding Cultural Plan from the Nevada Chapter of the American Planning Association. Major community partners include Nevada Humanities, the Nevada Historical Society, the Special Collections Department of the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries, the Sparks Museum & Cultural Center and the Historic Reno Preservation Society.
Quick Reference Links
https://4thprater.onlinenevada.org/ https://onlinenevada.org/ https://renohistorical.org/ https://historicreno.org/ https://sparksmuseum.org/
Historic Reno Preservation Society Nevada Historical Society Nevada Humanities Reno Historical Sparks Museum UNR Libraries
Your RTC. Our Community. rtcwashoe.com [12