The building at 1052 South Virginia Street in Reno, Nevada, has a storied past, with its roots dating back to 1938. Designed by the prestigious architectural firm of Frederic DeLongchamps and George O’Brien and financed by Camill Solari, the structure has been home to various businesses, residences, and artistic expressions. This historical overview delves into the building’s evolution, highlighting its significance and impact on the local community.
The Solari Era (1938-1974):
Camill Solari, a Swiss immigrant born in 1897, became known as Reno’s “Decorator De Luxe” by the 1930s. After initially working in railroad shops, Solari began a painting, papering, and decorating business, quickly earning a reputation as a skilled craftsman. He collaborated with prominent business owners and real estate developers, including Dick Graves and Norman Biltz.
The building at 1052 South Virginia Street, constructed in 1938, served as both an investment property and a storage space for Solari’s growing painting operation, C. Solari & Sons. The two-story brick building featured two storefronts and one apartment on the ground floor, with a paint warehouse on the Holcomb Avenue side and the Solari Apartments (later renamed Ciraolo Apartments) occupying the six spaces upstairs.
Hansel & Gretel Clothing Store (1948-1974):
From 1948 to 1974, the building became synonymous with the Hansel & Gretel clothing store, which specialized in quality children’s clothing. The store was known for offering hard-to-find shoe sizes and even utilized an x-ray machine for ensuring a perfect fit. Local residents fondly recall buying Catholic school uniforms, Easter dresses, and fancy coats at this beloved establishment.
Before Hansel & Gretel occupied the ground floor, other tenants included a beauty salon and a furniture dealer. In 1969, Lee and Donna Erickson purchased the clothing store and relocated it to Moana Lane in 1974.
The Building’s Architectural Features:
The structure boasts a concrete and multicolored brick exterior, with decorative courses of contrasting pressed brick bands adorning the top of the front façade. Rows of brick headers border the door and window openings and corner edges, adding to the building’s visual appeal.
Transition and Transformation (Mid-1970s-2022):
Following the relocation of Hansel & Gretel, an adult movie theater took over the building in the mid-1970s, coinciding with Virginia Street’s displacement as the primary north-south highway and the shift of retail towards newer shopping malls and commercial strips. At one point, an addition to the south side of the building housed a club called Le Cabaret, which featured a larger-than-life showgirl figure from downtown’s Primadonna Club. Most of the addition was eventually removed, but the original 1938 brick structure and its beautiful decorative brickwork remain intact.
Midtown Antiques – A Nod to the Past (Present):
Today, Midtown Antiques at 1052 South Virginia Street stands as a testament to Reno’s rich history and the enduring legacy of Camill Solari. As a hub for timeless antiques, collectibles, eclectic decor, and other reclaimed treasures, this antique store offers a true antique shopping experience in Reno. With its adaptive nature and lasting charm, the structure continues to be a cherished landmark in the local community, inviting both residents and visitors to appreciate its storied past while discovering unique and fascinating items.