A Brief history of Sparks


At the turn of the nineteenth century, after the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP) realigned their tracks, the new alignment was too far away from their division point in Wadsworth, NV (30 miles east of here).

While looking for a suitable location nearer the mountains, the SP purchased two large ranches in the east end of the Truckee Meadows. The land was subject to spring flooding and was almost a swamp. The SP used 334 rail cars and personnel working two shifts a day for six months hauling in and spreading dirt and gravel to fill in the area. They raised the average elevation by 18 inches.

In 1903-1904, they constructed the largest roundhouse in the world for its time. It was also the largest building west of the Mississippi. They also constructed many support facilities. A tract of land west of the roundhouse at the north side of the railroad land was reserved for employees willing to move from Wadsworth to the new town. There could be no commercial activities conducted in the Reserve. For that reason, as the town grew to support the railroad, all of the businesses were on the north side of the street dividing the railroad land from the town.

Moving day from Wadsworth was July 1, 1904. On that day, houses were dismantled and placed on flat cars for transport, trees were dug up and prepared for shipment, wagons loaded and the migration began.

The town was variously called East Reno, Glendale, and Harriman. The towns folk finally named the new city ‘Sparks’ in honor of then sitting Nevada Governor John Sparks. The Governor threw a barbecue for all at his Alamo Ranch south of Reno.

The city was incorporated on March 15, 1905. It remains a “City of Promise.” Population in 1903 – 8, 1905 – 1,500, 2010 – 90,264

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