Reno cathedral added to National Historic Register

Reno cathedral added to National Historic Register
St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral in downtown Reno, Nev. Image: Bohao Zhao / Wikimedia Commons CC3.0

RENO — Downtown Reno’s St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, affirming its historic and cultural significance within the community. The register is managed by the National Parks Service and expands opportunities for grants and other funding to preserve the structure.

The cathedral is located at the corner of West Second Street and Arlington Avenue, a site selected in 1906 for its prominence within the growing city of Reno, according to the Reno Historical Society. The building was completed in 1908 and is a mix of Classical, Baroque and Renaissance styles – architecture that played a role in its placement on the register.

“The one-of-a-kind St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral is one of Reno’s most spectacular architectural treasures. Along with its rich history, the cathedral complex also houses the Honors Academy of Literature, a state charter school for over 200 K-8 students in Northern Nevada,” said Rebecca Palmer, Administrator of the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office. “The National Register listing will help advance efforts to preserve and protect this historic landmark for generations to come.”

Reno Historical Society contributor Mella Harmon in an essay on the organization’s website, describes the obstacles local Catholics faced in securing a larger building in which to worship. Multiple fires destroyed previous churches, and a fire damaged the existing cathedral shortly after it was completed.

“Thanks to the new church’s sturdy construction, not all was lost,” Harmon said. “Father Tubman immediately began raising money to reconstruct the building, but this time, with a metal roof coated with Bedford slate-colored granite that, in fact, would last a century.”

The cathedral also features brick, stone and steel in its construction. It’s architectural features include bell towers with domed cupolas, three processional doors, ornately carved confessional booths, rounded stained glass windows, and an organ loft framed by decorative arches.

Additional buildings within the cathedral complex are also included in the register listing. The school building and rectory building were designed by Frederic DeLongchamps – noted in Nevada for his many architectural contributions – and are examples of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. Both buildings were designed in 1931, the same year the church was elevated to cathedral status.

Source: Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources