Friday Flashback - Reno

Written By: Susan Shirley

A unique thing about Arvada is that it has three National Register Historic Districts, side by side. These are: Arvada Downtown,  Stocke-Walter, and Reno Park.

Arvada's Reno Park Historic District runs from roughly Ralston Road south to Ridge Road, and from Zephyr Street to Yukon. This district is named for Louis Reno (1833-1906), a close associate of B. F. Wadsworth. Louis and his brother, John Reno, were two of the area's early settlers and worked hard to make it into the town it became. John ran away from the family's Pennsylvania farm at age 14, later becoming one of the 59ers who panned gold on Ralston Creek. Later, Louis, his father, and their entire family relocated to Arvada, becoming homesteaders adjacent to the Wadsworth property. Many of the Reno family members are buried in the Arvada Cemetery.

Is there a connection between the Reno here and the city in western Nevada? Yes, but to find it we have to go back to 1688. Two French brothers, fleeing from religious persecution, arrived in Virginia that year. They were Louis and Benjamin Reynaud; their name was soon anglicized to Reno. Louis and John Reno, the Arvada settlers, were members of the sixth generation after those original immigrants.

Reno, Nevada, on the other hand, is named for a beloved Civil War general, a member of the eighth generation, named Jesse Lee Reno (1823-1862.) Reno was known as a "soldier's general," who went right into the thick of things with his troops; he was killed while leading his men during the Battle of South Mountain. Reno, Nevada, is only one of several locations named in his honor.

Jesse Lee Reno left a son, Jesse Wilford Reno, who was the inventor of the escalator.

Another branch of the same family produced the infamous Reno Gang, a band of criminals in Indiana during and just after the Civil War who committed the country's first train robbery. Some of the other famous gangs (think, Jesse James) are thought to have been inspired by the Reno Gang. Elvis Presley, in his first movie, portrayed Clint Reno, brother of the gang members, who had remained at home to take care of their mother and sister.

Arvada's Louis Reno and his wife, Matilda (Otto) Reno, were the parents of Adna, Horace, Herbert, Le Clair, and Ethel. Le Clair (1882-1918) became an adjutant general of the Salvation Army in Wichita, Kansas. He died at age 34 while undergoing thyroid surgery. Herbert (1878-1951) was one of the surveyors on the Moffat Railroad, in 1902. His son, also Herbert Reno (1921-1992) was a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Colorado.

Janet Reno, the former United States Attorney General, is not related to the family. Her name is said to have been randomly selected by her father from a map of Nevada, because their Danish name, Rasmussen, was so often misspelled. Lucky his finger didn't land on Las Vegas, or worse, Jackpot, Nevada.

Last year, a neighborhood group from Reno Park Historic District appeared at a City Council workshop. They hope to have the zoning changed in a portion of the district, from Residential/Multi-Family, to Residential/Single Lot. This is in order to preserve the neighborhood's historic single-family character by preventing the building of large apartment houses or condominium projects.  A formal rezoning request is expected sometime in 2015.

Sources: Sue Reneau Damewood Genealogy, http://www.genealogy.com/ftm/d/a/m/Sue-Reneau-Damewood/BOOK-0001/0003-0001.html ; jeffco.us; wikipedia; findagrave.com; Arvada Press; arvada.org 1997 Arvada Survey Report.