The reason Luella Garvey left her family in 1929 and moved from Pasadena to Reno, Nevada has never been shared with the public but some things are known about her. Luella was the wealthy widow of a Cincinnati steel magnate but she was not known as flamboyant or “over the top.” She also wasn’t interested in Reno’s major industries: divorce or gambling. Luella did love a beautiful garden and she did appreciate fine workmanship in her home. In 1934 she commissioned Paul R. Williams to design in the "Old Southwest" section of Reno the most expensive house ever built in the city up to that time.
For $40,000 Mrs. Garvey’s two story white Classical Revival style duplex (589-599 California Avenue) with French Regency touches, intricate ironwork and $10,000 worth of landscaping was a bit of glamorous chic Hollywood transported to the middle of wild horse territory, dusty mines, unregulated gaming, and divorcees. While Mrs. Garvey chose to live in the smaller space with only two bedrooms and servants’ quarters, she rented the other half to her attorney Edward Lunsford. Both sides of the duplex included many of Williams’ signature California architectural features: open balconies with ornamental iron railings, an elaborate entry staircase with iron work and carved wooden details, window seats, French doors, and numerous bedrooms. The master suite had five closets, a dressing room, and a vaulted ceiling bath tiled in yellow and pink with floral accents. This bedroom also had a small, vine covered porch with views of Mrs. Garvey’s extensive landscaping. Williams included a brick floored interior courtyard and patio with masonry arches that supported the roof and further integrated the outdoor and indoor spaces.
After Luella died in the 1940s the sides of the duplex were sold separately. In 1972 and 1978 the current owner purchased both sides and converted the building into a single home. Although the building has been updated and renovated it remains true to Williams’ original design. With exception of the conversion of a patio into a parking space (images 2, 3) and the loss of some of the surrounding wall, the house looks much today as it did when Mrs. Garvey first entered the front door.
Credited as the first Paul R. Williams residence in Reno, the Garvey House is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.