Love for Reno’s Divorce Industry

I had a great time talking with writer Helena Guglielmino for her new Reno News & Review piece about Reno’s infamous migratory divorce trade, “Don’t Be My Valentine: Forget the hearts and flowers–it’s time to brush up on Reno’s divorce history.” During the six decades that Reno reigned as the “Divorce Capital of the World,” the industry was responsible for the construction and successful operation of countless lodging establishments from luxury hotels to rented rooms to resort-like “guest ranches”; the success of local businesses and services from restaurants, nightclubs, and boutiques to doctors, dentists, and laundries; the city’s first appearances in motion pictures and celebrity magazines; and so much more.

I’ve personally been approached to discuss and help others to research this part of Reno’s rich history more often in the past few years than ever before, from authors of popular fiction like Better Luck Next Time to the producer of the podcast 99% Invisible episode, “The Six Week Cure,” to Hollywood screenwriters (TBA). The Reno Divorce is having a moment, and it’s time for Reno to embrace it as a formative aspect of the city’s history and identity and give it a central role in placemaking and tourism development. Also be sure to check out the comprehensive award-winning website that I helped put together a few years ago, “Illuminating Reno’s Divorce Industry,” featuring brief explanations of all aspects of the divorce trade, an extensive research bibliography, a massive digital archive of thousands of relevant materials from photographs and postcards to magazine articles, books, letters and diaries, oral histories, and more.

An Open Letter to UNR President Brian Sandoval, Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, and Reno City Council regarding the proposed renaming of N. Center Street to University Way

November 5, 2021

URGENT! It has just come to my attention that at the November 10 Reno City Council meeting, under item D.2, Mayor Schieve and Reno City Councilmembers will consider accepting a recommendation to permanently change the name of N. Center Street to University Way, between the Truckee River and Ninth Street, in addition waiving the standard six-month waiting period for the change to go into effect.

The Original Reno townsite plat map from 1868 with Center Street delineated. Nevada Historical Society

Members of the Reno community have just learned that on September 23, Washoe County’s Regional Street Naming Committee, which forwarded this recommendation to the City Council, approved this request, which came directly from President Sandoval, without soliciting any input from the community at large or consulting any experts in the history of Reno, Nevada, Center Street, or its name—and that these efforts were begun back in April (and perhaps earlier) by President Sandoval with the written support of Mayor Schieve and others.

Despite that months-long involvement in this effort, Mayor Schieve’s intent to “surprise” the community with this plan was revealed just this week, when she appeared in a video called “The Next Stage of Downtown Reno” stating, “I’m looking at an initiative with the University to change one of our streets into University Avenue [sic]—I’m not going to say which one.”

A permanent renaming of one of Reno’s original streets deserves extensive community discussion, as there are far greater implications and repercussions than those related to branding, City-University partnerships, public safety, and the impact on the few businesses or other entities that happen to be located on the street in the present day. The change would constitute a permanent disruption to the continuity of a fundamental component of Reno history.
Changing the name of N. Center Street to University Way would permanently erase the name of one of Reno’s original streets, named by the Central Pacific Railroad in 1868, from the only section of street that was originally given that name. This is a distressing proposition with significant repercussions for Reno’s historical continuity and for the longstanding heritage and meaning of Center Street to Reno’s history and to local residents. It completely fails to acknowledge or respect the important role that N. Center Street plays in Reno’s history.

To pursue this name change in such a top-down, non-inclusive manner as though it is entirely justified by current strategic priorities and the historical record is neither accurate nor responsible. The fact that this measure appeared on public agendas for the Board of Regents and the Washoe County Regional Street Naming Committee does not constitute public engagement with Reno citizens or the historical community. This decision demands deliberate outreach in order to ensure that it is thorough, supported, fully vetted, and supported by Reno residents and that all potential implications and repercussions have been considered.

Please view my full letter with supporting documents and photographs below.

See below for a history of the “University Avenue” name through newspaper articles.

President Sandoval can be reached directly at

Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve at
Councilmember Neoma Jardon at
Councilmember Jenny Brekhus at
Councilmember Devon Reese at
Councilmember Oscar Delgado at
Councilmember Bonnie Weber at
Councilmember Naomi Duerr at