At the height of the Great Depression a sign appeared at the Nevada state line bragging: “Nevada, One Sound State, Cyclone Cellar of the Tax Oppressed, No Sales Tax, No Income Tax, No Inheritance Tax.” (Las Vegas Review-Journal: The First 100) Though 1930s Nevada had the sparsest population of any state, it also had the highest per capita wealth ($5,985). In the midst of a national economic downturn Nevada had everything: abundant mineral resources, large agricultural enterprises, prosperity from the Boulder Dam Construction Project, development of BMI, gaming and the quick-and-easy divorce industry. Across the country people of entrenched wealth felt threatened by the New Deal’s appeal to the poor and unemployed. Taking advantage of this climate the First Bank of Reno and the Nevada State Journal campaigned to promote their state as a tax-free Utopia for affluent Americans. Booklets were sent to the 10,000 wealthiest people in the country inviting them to become residents. By 1937 500+ tax émigrés had followed the brochure’s simple steps to legal residency and moved to Nevada. (Time. March 8, 1937) The list of new Nevadans included: E. L. Cord (entrepreneur), Max C. Fleischmann (Standard Brands), Lewis Luckenbach (steamships), Arthur K. Bourne (Singer sewing machines) and Raphael Herman, PhD. (large equipment manufacturer). (see image 7)
Born in Germany and educated in Paris Dr. Herman, emigrated to the United States. First moving to Detroit he eventually settled in California in the 1920s. Concerned about "chronic trouble sources" in Europe that were a detriment to world peace, Dr. Herman sponsored a World Peace Prize. In 1925 David Starr Jordan, president of Stanford University, was awarded $25,000 for his plan "for permanent peace through education." Though a successful businessman and philanthropist--including being recognized as a benefactor of the Assistance League of Southern California, Herman considered the World Peace Prize his greatest achievement. (New York Times. April 9, 1946)
While Luella Garvey’s house (1934) is now credited as the earliest Paul R. Williams’ residence in Reno, Raphael Herman’s ranch is the second—a visitor having signed the guest book in 1935. Dr. Herman, along with his youngest brother (Norman) and sister-in-law (Mariana) traveled through Nevada in the early 30s and fell in love with the state's natural beauty. Mariana remembers their first impressions, "We had seen such gorgeous blue skies and that is how we decided to get a place in Nevada." (Mariana Herman, files of the Washoe County Parks and Open Space Department)
Herman had a number of homes across the country but claimed Nevada as his primary residence to save on his taxes. He used the working ranch primarily as a vacation home, leaving brother Norman to run the cattle operation they established on-site. Mariana wrote, Norman "raised beautiful prize cattle, which he showed all over the United States."
The socially prominent Dr. Herman (image 7, portrait by S. Seymour Thomas) was familiar with Williams’ residential work for the wealthy in Los Angeles and commissioned him to create an appropriate house for his Nevada property… something rustic but not too rustic. The architect’s final plan, a simple classical revival design built on a small rise, was a natural fit for the landscape of the working ranch or Rancho San Rafael, which was established in the 1890s. The living areas of the white wooden house are located in the single story section and all bedrooms are in the two-story wing. The master bedroom included an open east-facing balcony. Visitors noted that the Hermans “loved their mornings” and one can imagine them seated on the balcony drinking coffee, enjoying the early coolness and watching the sunrise. (images 1, 2)
Raphael Herman was well-connected and hosted "important and interesting people from all over the world" on his Reno ranch. One of the largest rooms in the house was 600 square feet and could accommodate almost 100 people. Williams understood his desire to experience comfortable western living and extend hospitality to his many guests. The architect designed an elaborate brick patio/courtyard complete with built-in cooking area. (image 6) Constructed of locally made brick and custom iron work from Reno Iron Works this patio outdoor living area would have been familiar to Williams’ wealthy California clients.
The Hermans lived for many years at their rancho. Dr. Herman died in 1946 and was buried in Reno. Norman and Mariana maintained homes in both Beverly Hills and Reno. Norman operated a successful Los Angeles machine tool business but continued in the cattle business until his death in 1960.(Los Angeles Times. April 15, 1960)
Rancho San Rafael is now part of Washoe County Parks and is open to the public.