I was reading an article in the paper this morning about how a group has been formed to help revitalize streets all across the country that are named after Martin Luther King Jr. I can tell you first hand that in most major cities that street runs through some of the worst parts of town. Interestingly enough, here in Reno a 22 mile stretch of 395 has been dubbed Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Highway. For those not familiar with the area, Highway 395 is our North/South freeway that runs to Carson City and beyond to the South and up to Susanville, California in the North. Virginia Street is the old 395 which runs right through the middle of downtown. They are probably not going to rename that one, so the highway was the alternative.
Another interesting fact is that during the days of “Separate but Equal” black performers had to stay in hotels on Lake street, two blocks to the East of Virginia. The last of those hotels closed a few years ago, called the SpeakEasy. Performers were not welcome to enjoy the casinos they worked in. Club Harlem was one of Nevada’s first “integrated” casinos. Entertainers such as Sammy Davis, Jr., B.B. King, Luis Armstrong and Pearl Bailey, a cousin of the owner could be found there. The term integrated was really segregated. But the casino was downtown on East Douglas Alley. It changed names once to “The Soul “club, before being torn down in 1977 to make away for a parking garage.