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Organization strives to preserve historically Black Reno community, Black Springs

black springs, fire department
Our Story Inc.
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Fire Chief Willam Lobster, and Washoe Commissioner Copla in front of the Black Springs Fire Department building c.1970.

Black Springs is now a small neighborhood nestled amongst the giant industrial warehouses of Reno’s North Valleys.  

In the 1940s, it was among the few places near Reno where Black families could buy land on which they could build.  

At the time, the small 40-acre community was remote, miles out of town. It lacked basic services like electricity, running water, sewers and paved roads. And yet, the families that lived there... the Westbrooks, the Lobsters, and the Carthens banded together to raise money and develop the area themselves.  

First it was water and electricity, then it was a community center where the children got together and built a library. Eventually the roads were paved and churches sprang up. A volunteer fire department was constructed, and Black Springs became an integral part of the Biggest Little City’s black community.  

However, as the Truckee Meadows has grown, the legacy of Black Springs has waned. Now, people who are not familiar with the area’s history may just see a small group of older homes among Amazon and Chewy.com warehouses – the last holdouts in an increasingly industrial part of town. 

But there are some working to preserve the history of Black Springs and its legacy as a part of Reno’s Black community.  

Alicia Barber, Historian & Editor, RenoHistorical.org; Helen Townsell-Parker, Founder, Westbrook Foundation; Demetrice Dalton, Co-Founder, Our Story Inc.

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Paul serves as KNPR's producer and reporter in Northern Nevada. Based in Reno, Paul specializes in covering state government and the legislature.