Reno's history began when Charles William Fuller arrived in the Truckee Meadows in 1859 and occupied
a piece of land on the south bank of the Truckee River. By early 1860, he had constructed a bridge and small hotel, and the
place was known as Fuller's Crossing. In the following year, Fuller sold his bridge and hotel to Myron C. Lake, who renamed
the spot Lake's Crossing and soon was charging a toll on the bridge. The Crossing became an important station on one of the
main routes between northern California and the silver mines of Virginia City and the Comstock Lode.
Lake was the crossing's only property owner until the Central Pacific Railroad (later renamed Union
Railroad) crossed the Sierra Nevada in 1868 and pushed its tracks into the Truckee Meadows. Under terms of an agreement between
Myron Lake and Central Pacific, a new town was laid out at the crossing; ownership was divided between Lake and the railroad.
Almost overnight, buildings began to appear on the town site and the new settlement was named Reno in honor of General Jesse
Lee Reno (1823–1862), a Union army officer who was killed during the Civil War.
In 1871, the Nevada State Legislature moved the Washoe County seat to Reno, where one year later
the Virginia & Truckee Railroad extended its line. The town soon became an important commercial center on the transcontinental
railroad and a transfer point for the immense wealth coming out of the Comstock Lode. The University of Nevada was moved from
Elko to Reno in 1885.
Gains Prominence, Modern Times
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Reno gained national notoriety after a number of famous
people obtained divorces in the city under Nevada's lenient laws. Newspapers sensationalized the incidents, dubbing Reno the
"divorce capital." Reno's sister city, Sparks, was established in 1904 as a division point on the Southern Pacific Railroad.
After the legalization of casino gambling by the state legislature in 1931, Reno filled with gambling establishments–marking
the start of a tourist industry that flourishes today.
In the shadow of the casinos, Reno has quietly grown into an important transportation hub for the
western United States and has developed a diverse economic base. The city leaders have recognized this and responded by creating
aggressive expansion plans including a railroad system that will eventually bolster travel in the area along with the boom
the construction brings. Modern Reno boasts a thriving cultural scene, a refurbished downtown area, and an expanding tourist
industry fueled not by the casinos, but by the many year-round resorts in the nearby mountains. The area's mix of recreational
opportunities—from outdoor activities to gambling to plush accommodations—coupled with a warm climate that features
more than 300 sunny days every year has been the backbone to the success of the city. The effects are evident in its population
and business growth, and many have taken notice such as the authors of "Cities Ranked & Rated" that listed Reno in 2004
among the top 10 best places to live. With 30 Fortune 500 companies in the region that magazine also named Reno as
one of three "top booming towns" in March 2004.
Historical Information: Nevada Historical Society-Research Library, 1650 N. Virginia
St., Reno, NV 89503; telephone (775)688-1190; fax (775)688-2917