History & Preservation: The Wells Addition

Posted: 2/18/2010 Last Updated: 2/24/2010

Written by: Scott Powell


Reno Nevada was founded in 1868. For the first ten years most of the community was situated on the north side of the Truckee river. By 1878 the city had begun to spread to south side of the Truckee and by the turn of the century Reno had firmly established itself on both sides of the river.


During the 1890’s Sheldon O. Wells owned a sheep ranch on the south side of the Truckee and a store on the corner of Plaza and North Virginia in Reno. After his death in 1900, his estate was managed by his son-in-law, Samuel Wheeler, who was also a successful sheep rancher. In 1905 the Wells Estate company was approved to sub-divide Sheldon Wells’ sheep ranch into the Wells Addition.


The Wells Addition was bordered on north by South street, now known as Ryland Street, and to the West by the Virginia and Truckee railroad. Today, Holcomb avenue follows the path of the V & T railroad. The newly approved addition to Reno added Wells avenue as its eastern boundary and extended the existing Cheney street for its southern boundary.


Also extended into the Wells addition from existing streets were Stewart, Moran, Roberts and Thoma. Wheeler Street, named for Samuel Wheeler, was added and ran from South street to Cheney.

Samuel Wheeler had already begun selling lots on the ranch before the Wells Addition was officially created. Lots in the Wells Addition originally sold for $100 and up. By 1907 the Nevada Portable House Company was advertising ready made houses for sale from $300 up to $975 for fully erected houses. Many of these homes, including the model homes, were erected in the Wells Addition.


Trolley service was added in 1909, giving residents of the Wells Addition, and the later Burke Addition, easy access to the commercial areas of Reno. Many of Reno’s successful merchants and it’s middle class could now afford to live outside of the downtown area and still have an easy commute into work. The trolley ran from Virginia Street, down Moran and then south on Wells Avenue.


As the area around the Wells Addition grew, Wheeler was extended south to Vassar Street. Brick became the predominant building material and bungalows were the home style of choice. Today the "West of Wells" area is truly an island. While most of the grand Victorians that were built around South Virginia Street are gone, most of the original houses in the Wells Addition remain. Its unique mix of Victorian and Queen Anne homes, brick bungalows, contemporary style homes and apartments add a character to the neighborhood that is not found elsewhere in Reno.




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