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The Washoe County Library is the downtown branch of Reno's public library system. Erected in 1965, it is notable for its modern architecture and it reflects the city's evolution from primarily a tourist destination to a community that embraces arts and culture. Designed by architect Hewitt Wells, the library is best known for its interior, which features hundreds of plants, shrubs, several mature trees, and a pond (landscape architect Mitchell Serven designed the interior). It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.


  • The downtown Washoe County Library is known for its modern architecture and interior landscape design.

For the first half of the 20th century, Reno was known as the "divorce capital of the world." Its divorce laws were quite liberal for the time, which allowed couples to get a divorce after a short period of time (they needed to be a resident for just six months; during the Great Depression, the state reduced even more). This attracted thousands of people to the city and Nevada and a whole industry developed around it, including the hotels and casinos (mining and railroads were key parts of the economy as well).

The city began to change in the 1960s with the development of the arts movement. By this time, many residents didn't want to gamble but were instead interested in cultural activities. As a result, the library was built, along with the Pioneer Theater-Auditorium and the Fleischmann Planetarium, in the 1960s. The library also features an auditorium with a grand piano and an art gallery on the balcony. In 1968, the American Association of Nurserymen awarded the library the Industrial Landscape Awarded, which Lady Bird Johnson (wife of President Lyndon Johnson) presented to the library in a ceremony. Nationally, the library was part of a growing trend around the country to improve the physical environments in which people lived through enhanced landscaped design, including creating more parks with playgrounds, having cleaner streets, and improving highway design.

"Downtown Reno Library." Washoe County Library System. Accessed August 29, 2019. https://www.washoecountylibrary.us/libraries/downtown-reno.php.

Trexler, Sue. "Washoe County Library." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. Accessed August 29, 2019. https://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/pdfs/13000011.pdf.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Wikimedia Commons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washoe_County_Library#/media/File:Washoe_County_Library.jpg