Oral History Program plans book signings, sales for holidays

11/20/2008 - By: Natalie Savidge

Illustrated with 140 full-page photos, Reno Now and Then is a new book published by the University of Nevada, Reno's Oral History Program that documents the remarkable transformation the city has undergone during the past 100 years. The work of preservationists/photographers Neal Cobb and Jerry Fenwick, Reno Now and Then draws on the extensive historic photo collections of its authors and the collection of the Nevada Historical Society.

Historically significant Reno homes, businesses and other locations are shown as originally photographed many years ago and as they appeared when re-photographed by Fenwick and Cobb in 2008. The images are accompanied by authoritative captions, rich in little-known information about the community and its built environment. Introductory essays by Nevada State Archivist Guy Rocha and newspaper columnist Karl Breckenridge establish context.

Reno is one of the few Nevada towns that was never a boom-and-bust mining camp. Sitting astride the Truckee River and the main road from northern California mining camps, in its early days it offered travelers crude shelter and a bridge across the river. With the coming of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869, Reno found itself situated along a major cross-country route. Positioned in this manner, the city became a thriving transportation and distribution hub for ranching, agriculture, and mining, and a center of banking and law firms. It retains some of that character today; but, since the 1950s, its economy and its identity have been dominated by the casino gaming industry.

Through historic photos and contemporary re-photography of selected locations, Reno Now and Then illustrates the ongoing collision between the consequences of development and a desire for stable links with the city's past. Most of the pictures in its pages will be new to the reader.

Co-author Jerry Fenwick said, "Neal and I hope that longtime Reno residents will remember fondly some of the scenes depicted and that newcomers will gain a better understanding of the historic development of the town they now call home."

Drawing on photos selected from the book, students from the University's Reynolds School of Journalism created a digital "morphing" feature for Nevada Humanities' Online Nevada Encyclopedia (ONE). The feature will debut Nov. 20 and can be viewed by visiting the New Features section of ONE at Online Nevada.

Priced at $24.95, the book will be in area bookstores by Nov. 20. Cobb and Fenwick will appear for book signings at the following locations: 

  • Sundance Bookstore, 1155 W. Fourth St., Reno, Dec. 6, 1 to 3 p.m.
  • Nevada Historical Society, 1650 N. Virginia St., Reno, Dec. 13, 1 to 3 p.m.
  • Westerner's Reno Corral, Sands Regency Hotel-Casino Steakhouse, Dec. 18, 6:30 p.m.
  • Good Old Days club, Reno Elks Lodge, 597 Kumle Lane, Reno, Dec. 19, noon.

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