Reno's Sign of the Times

When you drive through the city, you can’t miss its slogan. That wasn’t always the case.
by | October 2017
(David Kidd)

Reno, Nev., is the self-proclaimed “Biggest Little City in the World.” Drive downtown and the slogan is hard to miss: It appears in bright neon lights on the Reno Arch that spans Virginia Street.

But the arch that stands today is not the original one. That can be found a few blocks south on Lake Street, restored to its 1920s glory.

The arch was initially built to promote the 1927 Nevada Transcontinental Highway Exposition. But when the exposition ended, the city was stuck with a steel arch announcing an event that had come and gone. So city leaders held a contest to replace the exposition name and dates with a city slogan.

The sign was replaced in 1963 with something more modern and eventually moved to a storage yard where it languished until 1994 when a movie company needed it as a prop. The resurrected sign was such a hit that it was moved to its current spot.

As for the arch over Virginia Street -- which is actually the third one so far and was erected in 1987 -- Mayor Hillary Schieve has said she’d be open to replacing it with something, well, more modern.