Submitted by Karl Breckenridge
Yesterday I spied a reference to the Greyhound terminal on Stevenson Street, now razed. This triggered a synapse in my mind, like I think I wrote a story about that for the Chamber of Commerce a couple decades ago – maybe appropriate for the This is Reno readership. I dug it out – yup, turn of the 21st century – let’s update it 20 years:
Preparatory to taking pen in hand, I find that Prudence, (not her real name), dictates some laying of groundwork for the words that follow: In our town, the Greyhound Lines bus terminal was once on the west side of Lake Street, just south of the present and storied Santa Fe Basque hotel and restaurant. Some 40-plus Greyhound buses each day and night turned south off Fourth Street – the Lincoln Highway – and entered the station from Lake Street. Departing, they entered the alley between Lake and Center Streets, turned south to Second Street, and then returned to the highway using Center or Lake Streets.
That said, our tale, commencing in the May 1973 time period, may begin. Harrah’s Club, Greyhound’s neighbor across the alley with a newish hotel tower on Center Street, had in their corporate mind to build a parking garage on the northwest corner of Lake and Second, to be seamless with their casino on Center and Second’s northeast corner. The slight impediment to all that was an alley, which could be abandoned, save for the fact that Greyhound needed it for their departing coaches.
One must understand that Harrah’s thought big. “Let’s just move the bus station,” they said, and contacted Greyhound with a proposal to build a brand-new bus station in exchange for their terminal on Lake Street, thus freeing up the alley’s necessity.
“Fine,” said Greyhound. “But it must have easy access to downtown Reno and to the freeway.”
The I-80 freeway was well-underway north of the Lincoln Highway. Several sites came easily to mind – one on Wells Avenue at Park Street but too distant from downtown. Maybe the parcel of land between Second Street and the former Reno Newspapers building (soon to be Reno’s police station). But maybe not.
Another possibility was building over the new freeway à la the future Walgreen’s Drugs on the failed casino parking lot, then constructed but never completed. But – buses were too heavy for that to work.
So, deed was done and seven lots were acquired by Harrah’s more or less in May of 1973 on the west side of Stevenson Street, from First Street all the way to Second. Seven of the nicest turn-of-the-century homes in Reno would be bulldozed, and there, the world learned, would be the sparkling new Greyhound bus station.
Here I might refer to foreign objects colliding with the fan around the village, or sane people becoming ballistic, or other inane similes implying municipal anger. But I’ll simply type that the public was not in favor of a bus station on this cherished little parcel on the bucolic Truckee River. It had already seen a classic Queen Anne YWCA across Stevenson Street bulldozed for the boxy Reno Riviera Motel, and the sleepy little grassy park in front of the State Building across from the Riverside Hotel and the post office paved in concrete with the advent of the dreaded “Golden Turtle” Pioneer Theater. This bus station was the last straw.
A resounding hue-and-cry arose, with the backing of both Reno newspapers, the Gazette and the Journal, taking an uncharacteristic stance against mighty Harrah’s Club. And I note here that both were domiciled across West Second Streeet from the terminal’s proposed site. The gloves were off. Both newspapers virtually doubled their editor-letters pages to accommodate those who would squawk.
The Very Reverend Monsignor Charles Righini representing St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral, to the planned bus station site’s north, said nothing doing, citing the late-night operation and moral decay known to exist in and around bus stations. The entire membership of the neighboring Twentieth Century Club wrote letters and attended public forums with hatchets in hand like latter-day suffragettes Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, in opposition to the station next door to their beautiful little building on Riverside Drive.
But all the while I found a foreboding quote in my research for this piece, per my 2020 notes. A gentleman from Harrah’s, not Mr. Harrah himself, was asked by a reporter, “Do you have any alternative plans in case this site is rejected?” His response was, “We don’t foresee it failing.” Oh.
One group presented to the Reno City Council a petition opposing the bus station’s move, with 972 signatures. Other prominent and impassioned citizens beseeched the council members to deny the zoning necessary to erect the station. The route necessary for the buses to traverse, from First Street to Fourth Street and soon to the I-80 freeway, did not qualify as a Reno truck route, invalidating the site.
The Nevada Highway Department was brought into the fray, to prove with some space-age testing gizmo that the streets were incapable of bearing the constant load of buses.
On Valentine’s Day 1974, a card with 5,000 signatures of those opposing the bus station was presented to no less a sentimental soul than William Fisk Harrah himself, imploring him not to bring the noise, traffic congestion, loiterers and presence of a large building to this pristine little neighborhood.
Mayor Sam Dibitonto and the assembled members of the city council, whose favor was required to obtain the zoning, came out against the project. My friend and RHS buddy Sue (Rauch) Schroeder wrote a letter. Opposition to the terminal was staggering, insurmountable, impenetrable, staunchly in place from all corners of our village’s press and populace.
The ribbon-cutting of the new bus station was held on April 17, 1975 (to the surprise of none).
Mayor Sam Dibitonto welcomed Mr. Harrah himself to the dias, where he offered a few words, then turned the station’s keys over to assembled Greyhound officials. A pledge was made by somebody to maintain the station as a credit to our town, well-maintained and patrolled, a new element of the Truckee’s rich fabric. The terminal, which by the way was designed by William Pireira A.I.A. and built by Walker Boudwin Construction, would be hidden-yet-enhanced by extensive vegetation.
That promise went to hell in a handbasket when the first bus rolled into the new terminal…
To wrap up the thought, Harrah’s planned parking garage was eventually built on Center Street and Commercial Row, when Harrah’s was able to acquire the site of the Overland Hotel. The corner where the garage was originally planned was eventually used for the Hampton Hotel, later to become the second Harrah hotel tower.
The alley that started this whole ball rolling was abandoned and now forms part of the Second Street casino floor. The former Greyhound station remains on Lake Street, in use by Harrah’s as storage and slot repairs. The newer terminal that started the brouhaha is one-year-gonzo. And the Santa Fe hotel, which Mr. Harrah also once wanted so desperately to acquire, held out and still slings picons for all.
And we’ll all meet back here tomorrow on Day 61 of our modified isolation – and hey, be safe, huh?
Submitted opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of This Is Reno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article or letter to the editor here.
Karl Breckenridge was slowly going nuts. So he decided to help out This is Reno by writing a daily out-of-his-mind column for the duration of the coronavirus shutdown. Now that it’s over he’s back to his usual antics, drinking coffee with the boys at the Bear and, well, we’re not sure what else. But he loved sharing his daily musings with you, so he’s back, albeit a little less often, to keep on sharing. Karl grew up in the valley and has stories from the area going back to 1945. He’s been writing for 32 years locally.
Read more from Karl Breckenridge
Karl’s pal Jody shares the rich history of bootlegging, decorating, and engineering within the confines of the Truckee River’s banks and its picturesque islands.