Northern Nevada architecture is one of the foundations of our business, and in many ways, it represents a picture book of economic growth and social history. In Reno and Sparks, many buildings have historical significance and architectural character. 

In recognition of this and the people who have helped contribute to the development of our great state, the Nevada Museum of Art is hosting an exhibition featuring Janna Ireland, a contemporary photographer who explores the legacy of architect Paul Revere Williams. 

From single-family homes to exquisite mansions to steel-built apartment complexes, Williams helped shape the west. If you’ve ever strolled the streets of downtown Reno, taken an afternoon jaunt through Rancho San Rafael Regional Park, or driven through the Las Vegas strip, then you’ve more than likely seen one of his unique and charming designs. 

As proud supporters of this exhibition, we’re sharing insight into how Ireland aims to contribute to the larger conversation about Williams’ architectural work in Nevada. You can also check out the community events, walking tours, discussions, and other activities. 

The exhibition will run in Reno from July 2 to October 2 before traveling to the Nevada State Museum in Las Vegas. Here’s how you can get involved. 

Photography Exhibit In Reno Showcases The History Of Nevada Architecture, Culture, and Life 

Where Art and Architecture Collide

Paul Revere Williams was an artist. He had an eye for innovation, turning houses into homes and homes into communities. In part, this is what inspired Janna Ireland to start her more than five-year-long journey photographing structures he designed. 

Ireland first discovered Williams’ projects in Hollywood and the greater Los Angeles area, where he spent his early career designing mansions for celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball. She later discovered his special relationship with Nevada architecture. In her artist statement about the exhibition, she describes Williams’ ability to break through barriers. 

Nevada architecture - Paul Revere Williams“Paul R. Williams (1894-1980) is most well known as a barrier-breaking Black architect who designed grand homes that epitomized Hollywood glamor,” Ireland states. 

In 1923, Williams became the first certified Black architect of the American Institute of Architects. As a pioneer in the industry, he had to overcome years of social discrimination and prejudice.

Some examples include learning to draw upside down because he couldn’t sit next to clients and walking with his arms behind his back to avoid interactions with people who didn’t want to shake his hand.

Janna Ireland Artist PortraitThat’s why Ireland, who has also worked hard to overcome adversity in her life, made it her mission to show not only the blueprints and lines of Williams’ work but also of his heart and soul. Instead of photographing his buildings and structures from a distance, Ireland focuses on the intimate details with black and white photography. By doing so, she removes distractions and allows us to view Williams’ work in a new light. 

If this iconic duo inspires you, check out one of these events below. From hands-on activities at the Museum to expert-led discussions and walking tours, you can learn more about Nevada architecture and the impact of Williams’ on our region.

Between the Lines of Paul Revere Williams’ Designs 

Hands ON! Second Saturday – Lines and Architecture

  • 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, August 13
  • 160 W. Liberty St., Reno, NV 89501, Nevada Museum of Art 
  • Free for general admission and members

Through this program at the Museum, you and the whole family can explore your creativity together. There’s always something new to discover with community collaborations, guest performances, monthly themes, and more. Plus, the hands-on art activities are perfect for little ones, and the docent-guided tour offers a more in-depth look at the work on display. With so much to see, this free event will surely be a hit with everyone in the family. 

A Look Inside the Historic Ranch House at Rancho San Rafael

Art in Nevada - Paul Revere Williams - Nevada Museum of Art

  • 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, August 27
  • 1595 N. Sierra Street in Reno
  • $15 or $10 for members

Gather for coffee in the courtyard of the Main Ranch House at Rancho San Rafael for a talk by historian and author Alicia Barber. Barber reflects on the lives of brothers Raphael Herman, Norman B. Herman, and Norman’s wife, Mariana. In 1936, the trio commissioned Paul Revere Williams to design a custom home in the Classical Revival style, which they later renamed Rancho San Rafael. Advance registration is required for all programs. 

Art Bite: Alicia Barber on Paul Revere Williams’ Architectural Legacy in Central and Northern Nevada

  • Noon, Friday, September 16 
  • 160 W. Liberty St., Reno, NV 89501, Nevada Museum of Art 
  • $15 or free for members

To get the full scope of Williams’ work, it is essential to consider what was happening in Nevada during the mid-century. As an award-winning writer, historian, and founder of Stories in Place, Alicia Barber, Ph.D., will discuss the growth of Reno, Nevada architecture, including its development into a divorce capital, tax haven, and national tourist destination.  

Exploring The El Reno Apartment Homes

Nevada architecture - El Reno Apartments

Since the walking tour for these historic buildings sold out, you’ll want to register early for Debbie Hinman’s talk on September 11. As the Vice President and Interim President on the Board of Directors for the Historic Reno Preservation Society, Hinman will dive deeper into the history of the El Reno Apartment Homes and how they represent a completely different side of Williams’ work. You can learn how he became the consulting architect for steel homes in Southern California and Nevada, and his designs were used to supply housing for Reno residents on South Virginia Street.

Member’s After Hours

  • 7 to 9 p.m., Thursday, September 29 
  • 160 W. Liberty St., Reno, NV 89501, Nevada Museum of Art
  • Free for members

At this after-hours event, members are invited for an exclusive insider view of the fall lineup of exhibitions, including a last-chance-look at Janna Ireland on the Architectural Legacy of Paul Revere Williams in Nevada. You can enjoy private gallery hours, live music, local DJ sets, pop-up performances, refreshing drinks, and small bites.

Tour At Your Own Pace—The Architecture of Paul Revere Williams 

Hosted by Reno Historical, this virtual tour allows you to explore Williams’ designs in Reno from the comfort of your home or tour them at your own pace. This site will also be continuously updated as research into his Nevada work continues. 


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Nevada Museum of Art (@nevadaart)

A Look Inside The Lens Of Janna Ireland

If this article on the history of Reno, Nevada architecture or exhibition speaks to you, visit the Museum Shop for a copy of Janna Ireland’s book, “Regarding Paul R. Williams: A Photographer’s View.” Inside, you’ll find an intimate series of more than 200 fine-art black-and-white photographs exploring Williams’ contributions to Southern California and Nevada architecture. “Regarding Paul R. Williams” is more than a book of buildings and homes—it is the result of one artist’s encounter with another, a special relationship built between art and the built environment around us.

At Dickson Realty, we are proud to share information about Northern Nevada architecture as it provides homes for our clients and community members. For more information about living in Reno/Sparks, contact one of our REALTORS today.