Temporary Residence: Reno

A wide array of housing options awaited the divorce-seeker

Audio Tour
Project curator Mella Harmon discusses the repercussions of encouraging a continuous influx of temporary residents to Reno.

Reno’s divorce colony was underway by 1906, and many enterprising property owners and business people seized the opportunity to provide housing and related services to Reno’s temporary citizens. In short order, an entire industry developed to provide divorce-seekers an array of lodging options including hotels, apartment buildings, boarding and rooming houses, private residences, spare rooms, auto camps, and dude ranches.

As the state legislature repeatedly shortened the required residency period, the number and types of housing options increased. Each one provided unique surroundings and experiences to the divorce-seeker.   There was short-term housing both for the rich and famous and for those with barely enough money to keep body and soul together. As a result, the migratory Reno divorce was remarkably attainable for most of America’s citizens.

Locating one of these temporary homes was the first step toward establishing Nevada residency, and posed a challenge for divorce-seekers, most of whom had never before visited Reno. To ease the process, local lawyers maintained relationships with boardinghouse, dude ranch, and hotel managers, allowing referrals to move both ways. A few divorce lawyers even bought apartment buildings and set up their wives as managers.

Dorothy Bartlett, a daughter of popular Judge George A. Bartlett, was a realtor who had a natural advantage in the business due to her connections. The local Chamber of Commerce provided housing information upon request. In fact, nearly any Reno local could direct a divorce-seeker to a friend or associate who could provide housing and a resident witness to those in need.

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