When the divorce colony began, Reno had a small population of merely 5,000 people and few housing options for the divorce-seeker besides private homes and a few hotels catering mostly to cattlemen and miners. This void was quickly filled by property owners who made accommodations in their private homes or converted them into boardinghouses.
A building boom ensued, as well, with new apartment buildings and hotels joining the landscape. Harry Gosse built the elegant four-story chateau-style Riverside Hotel on the banks of the Truckee River in 1906. Other builders appeared the following year, including the Hotel Richelieu on East Fourth Street and Reno’s first apartment building, the Colonial Apartments, on West Street.
Soon, Reno offered a wide range of housing options to its new class of temporary residents including hotels, apartment houses, boarding and rooming houses, rooms in private homes, and even auto camps, which later transitioned into motels. One enterprising young woman managed to serve her six weeks in the county jail where she got her room and board courtesy of the taxpayers.
The guest ranch, which became a popular and widely-publicized housing choice, first appeared on the scene in the late 1920s, offering guests accommodations ranging from rustic to luxurious.
. . . for a time the rush of divorce-seekers was so great that people with very simple houses found it very lucrative to move in with relatives and rent their own abodes furnished; many returned to find that lavish tenants had completely redecorated the houses and left new expensive furnishings when they departed.
Headed by matriarch Josephine Fuetsch, the Fuetsch family operated a guest house at 435 Riverside Drive from 1932 to 1940. The entire extended family was involved in the operation of the house, which had nineteen rooms for rent in three buildings, including a barn converted into an eleven-room annex. Prices at the Fuetsch Guest House ranged from ten to twenty dollars per month for single rooms to thirty-seven and fifty-six dollars for rooms with baths.
Breakfast was included, but only three guests at a time would be invited to have dinner with the family. The Fuetsches provided entertainment, including an ever-popular cocktail hour, card games, horseback-riding excursions, and car trips to Lake Tahoe via Mount Rose.
From hotels to boarding houses, guest ranches to auto camps, lodging for the divorce-seeker came in all shapes and sizes.
Nevada courts required proof that each divorce-seeker had remained in the state for the required duration.
Members of “the colony” often found instant camaraderie with those going through the same experience.
Dude ranches offered lodgers a taste of western living, often with first class amenities.