Historic divorce houses in Reno may be moved for redevelopment

Updated March 10, 2018 - 9:15 pm

RENO — Two historic houses that lie in the path of its revitalization project in downtown Reno, including one that played a key role in the city’s emergence in the 1930s as the “Divorce Capital of the World,” will be relocated, not razed, if a developer has its way.

Officials for Jacobs Entertainment Inc. say they want to preserve the two homes on the National Register of Historic Places so they’re seeking permits to move them instead of resorting to the wrecking ball.

The Nystrom Guest House served as a divorce boarding house during a time when divorce-seekers flocked to Nevada from around the U.S. because of its lax residency requirements. More than 32,000 divorces were granted in Washoe County from 1929 to 1939, a time when the county seat, Reno, had a population of about 18,000. By the late 1930s, the county was averaging 5,000 divorces a year.

Jacobs Entertainment CEO Jeff Jacobs said in a statement this week they intend to file for city demolition permits because property relocation falls in the demolition category. But he said it’s part of their relocation plan tied to the blueprint for a $500 million arts, residential and entertainment corridor on West 4th Street to be known as the Fountain District.

“We recognize how important it is to the community to preserve Reno’s rich history and culture,” Jacobs said. “We fully intend to keep the integrity of these buildings as we move forward with our relocation efforts.”

The other house

The other building the developer is seeking to relocate — the Borland-Clifford House, built in 1885 — is one of Reno’s oldest homes and one of the only homes remaining in the area from the 19th century.

The company hopes to begin moving it to private property before the end of March, with the Nystrom Guest House’s relocation slated for this summer.

A spokeswoman for the company said it is in talks with possible buyers and movers who have requested confidentiality during the contract period.

Critics don’t like move

Some critics would rather see the houses stay where they are.

“Relocation isn’t really a desirable preservation strategy. It’s a way of dealing with something that’s in the way,” local real estate agent Barrie Lynn told KTVN-TV.

“What makes this particular property so significant is its proximity to downtown,” she said.

Built in Reno in 1875, the Nystrom Guest House started operating as a boarding house catering to divorce-seekers by the 1920s. It became one of the most famous homes away from home for those trying to establish the minimum six-week residency to obtain a divorce in Nevada.

The original Gothic, wood-siding house now covered in stucco was built as the home of Washoe County Clerk J.S. Shoemaker. It changed hands several times in the 1920s and 1930s before it was bought during World War II by Victor and Estelle Nystrom, who moved from San Francisco specifically to take part in the divorce trade.

Already sensing a boost in visitors to the area specifically to seek “quickie divorces,” state lawmakers cut Nevada’s residency requirement from six months to three months in 1927. And in 1931, Gov. Fred Balzar signed legislation that cut the period from three months to six weeks.

Construction for new 51s ballpark underway
New home of the Las Vegas 51s is planned to be finished by March 2019 in Summerlin according to team president Don Logan. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Underground home was built as Cold War-era hideaway
The underground house at 3970 Spencer Street is one of the valley’s most unusual homes built 26 feet underground in 1978 by Girard “Jerry” B. Henderson, who, planned to survive the end of the world there.
Lip Smacking Foodie Tours takes you where the locals go
Donald Contursi talks about Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, which offers walking tours of restaurants on and off Las Vegas Boulevard with food samples and tidbits of history about the places they visit.
Bump stock manufacturers under fire
The Justice Department said last month that it had started the process to amend federal firearms regulations to clarify that federal law defines bump stocks as machine guns.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Longtime Las Vegas attorney John Momot dies at age 74
Criminal defense attorney John Momot, who represented mob figures and even played himself in the movie “Casino,” has died.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
5 things connecting Las Vegas and Marilyn Monroe
1. Marilyn Monroe, known then as Norma Jeane, obtained her first divorce in Las Vegas at the age of 20 on September 13, 1946. 2. According to some biographers, Monroe lived at 604 S. 3rd Street for four months during the summer of 1946. The house has since been torn down and is now the site of a parking lot. 3. In 1954, Monroe almost married Joe DiMaggio in Las Vegas but the wedding was called off last minute. The wedding was to be held at the Hotel El Rancho Vegas which was located on the southwest corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. 4. Las Vegas has at least one road dedicated to the star. Marilyn Monroe Avenue is located in east Las Vegas and intersects with Betty Davis Street and Cary Grant Court. 5. There are currently more than 20 Marilyn Monroe impersonators for hire in the Las Vegas Valley.
Sir Richard Branson announces purchase of Hard Rock Hotel
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has acquired the Hard Rock Hotel with partners and plans to turn it into a Virgin-branded property by the end of 2019.
3 Centennial High School students killed in Calif. crash (Full)
Three Centennial High School students were killed Thursday morning in Southern California when their vehicle was struck by a suspected drunken driver while they were enjoying their spring break, according to a family member of one of the victims.
Retail Restroom Sexual Assault Suspect
Las Vegas police are asking for help finding a man they said groped a woman in a south Las Vegas Valley restroom. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Calvary Christian Learning Academy, “There was no fair warning.”
Samantha O’Brien, whose three-year-old daughter attended the Calvary Christian Learning Academy daycare, found out Monday night when her daughter’s teacher called about the school closing.
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like