From River Crossing to Biggest Little City in the World

Reno. The city of my birth and that I hold very dear. It’s a city of possibility, long famous for easy divorce and, more recently, a bustling humanities and startup scene. Nestled under Mount Rose, Reno has stood watch over the Truckee Meadows for 146 years.


Fuller’s Crossing

Officially founded on May 9, 1868 when the Central Pacific Railroad Company began selling lots along the Truckee River, Reno had already been an established crossing point of the Truckee River for eight years. Charles Fuller, in 1859, had built a log toll bridge over the Truckee River and a small building for the lodging of gold prospectors on their way to the newly discovered ore fields of Virginia City.


Lake House, circa 1883

Within two years, Fuller sold his bridge and accompanying lodging house to Myron Lake. Lake promptly renamed the location Lake’s Crossing after himself and continued to operate the toll bridge and lodging accommodations (now named Lake House) until 1868 when the Central Pacific Railroad arrived in the Truckee Meadows. Lake sold most of his land to the CPRR so that it could build railroad depot. A townsite was laid out, lots sold off to businessmen, entrepreneurs, and eager new residents, and the new town of Reno, named after Civil War General Jesse Lee Reno, was born.

The small town quickly grew, becoming the county seat in 1871 and the location of the state university in 1884. By 1900, the population of Reno had reached 4,500, making it the most populous city in Nevada.


Panorama of Reno, circa 1900

The legalization of gambling in 1931, as well as a six week residency for divorce, spurred the growth of Reno into the mid-20th century. The beauty of Lake Tahoe helped draw in visitors to the area. Recently, the recognition of the University of Nevada, Reno into a Tier 1 College draws students from across the country. Now, more than ever, Reno remains the land of opportunities that attracted early settlers, full of life and possibility.

So happy anniversary, Reno. From small beginnings to the major metropolitan area of northern Nevada, may you stand watch over the Truckee Meadows for at least another 100 years.


For more information on Reno history, check out our just-launched website And, for the person on the go, you can download the app from iTunes and GooglePlay.