548 California Avenue

Aside from The Plumas House, a bed-and-breakfast on our tour a few years ago, this attractive building will be the first commercial office to be included on the home tour. It is so unique a property with such a notorious history we decided we wanted to include on the tour. 548 California is a Period Revival brick cottage with Tudor Revival details, including diamond-paned windows and false half-timbering. The structure was built in 1928 as a home for William and Bertha (Bertie) Graham by architect George A. Schastey, who predominantly worked in the Bay Area, had moved to Reno in 1923 where he worked with Frederic DeLongchamps on a design for the Medico-Dental Arcade building. He returned to California soon after the Graham house was finished. Bill Graham was born in Pennsylvania of Irish immigrants. At some point he traveled to the West and became known as a San Francisco gangster. During the gold and silver boom in Tonopah and Goldfield, he made his way there and when the mines dried up, Graham relocated to Reno around 1920. Here he teamed up with Jim McKay and his old benefactor from Tonopah, George Wingfield. In Reno, Graham and McKay had their fingers in any number of illegal activities, from gambling and prostitution to bank fraud. Bill and Bertie occupied this home until their deaths, in 1965 and 1968, respectively. Attorney Marilyn York has owned the building since 2009 and while it is an office, she has made a great effort to maintain the historic attributes of the structure. This multi-room building (14 rooms at last count) has been lovingly restored, and although used as offices, contains many handsome antiques. Most of the windows are original; the front ones are leaded glass. Upstairs there are three eyebrow windows. The wooden floors are original; the lobby fireplace is just as it was in the Grahams' day. A feature of the home that harkens back to its "gangster days," is the presence of escape routes installed by Graham from different areas of the house.