Reno’s Mission Revival Quartet of Schools

McKinley Park School is a recognizable feature to those who frequent Reno’s riverwalk. The Mission Revival beauty sits just west of Wingfield Park, with its central tower and two welcoming wings facing the Truckee River. McKinley Park School, built in 1909, is one of a quartet of Mission Revival style schools in Reno from the early 20th century known as the Four Spanish Sisters or the Spanish Quartet. Of the other three, the Orvis Ring (1910) and Mary S. Doten (1912) Schools have been torn down, but Mount Rose School (1912) and McKinley Park survive.

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McKinley Park School

The Spanish Quartet, designed by Nevada architect George Ferris, are representative of a population growth in Reno at the turn of the century. They were all designed in the Mission Revival style with a similar U-shaped plan and feature towers: McKinley Park School (like Mary S. Doten) has a central two-story tower, while Mount Rose (like Orvis Ring) has two towers that flank the entrance. Why the Mission Revival style? George Ferris later wrote that the style was particularly well-suited for one story buildings, which he deemed most appropriate for schools. Furthermore, the style was a safer option for teachers and students as the involved materials inhibited the spread of fires.

Ironically, it was an expanding population again that threatened the Spanish Quartet and led to the demolition of the Mary S. Doten and Orvis Ring Schools in 1974 and 1986, respectively. McKinley Park and Mount Rose live on, however, and have important roles in the community. McKinley Park School, in the heart of Reno and next to the Truckee River, is now an arts and culture center. Mount Rose, several miles south amidst a neighborhood of historic bungalows, continues to function as a school and is perhaps the best example of Mission Revival architecture in Reno still serving its original purpose.

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Mount Rose School

McKinley Park School:

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Mount Rose School:

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Sources and further reading:

Mella Harmon did a series of four articles (including historic photos!) about the respective four schools. Check them out here: McKinley Park (1909), Orvis Ring (1910), Mount Rose (1912), and Mary S. Doten (1912).

You can see the McKinley Park School National Register Nomination here and the Mount Rose School National Register Nomination here. It is no mistake that these were written in 1985 and 1977: community members were scrambling in the 70s and 80s to save the remaining schools of the Quartet.

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7 thoughts on “Reno’s Mission Revival Quartet of Schools

  1. I’ve never seen schools with such interesting architecture before, beats the rectangular boring high school I went to haha! I love that it is being maintained in its original style, and that people are still celebrating it rather than tearing it down for something new!

    Like

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