Sparks, Nevada

Sparks, Nevada
Sparks, Nevada
Victorian Square in downtown Sparks, Nevada

In the early days of European settlement, the Sparks area settlers were farmers and ranchers who made a decent living selling cattle to emigrants on the California Trail. Many emigrants had headed west with livestock but by the time they reached this area, the livestock were often weak and sick from the hardships of the journey. So the folks would buy fresh cattle locally and trade their weak cattle as part of the deal.

The area didn't really begin to grow until the Southern Pacific Railroad built a switch yard and maintenance sheds here. A city sprang up to house and provide services for the workers that was originally named Harriman (after Edward Harriman, president of the railroad at that time). (The railroad actually made an offer to the maintenance crews at the old maintenance station at Wadsworth: if they wanted to transfer to Sparks, the railroad would sell them a lot and move their houses for free. In the summer of 1903 a drawing was held and employees names were matched with lots: 67 lots changed hands that day for $1 per 50'x140' lot. The houses were moved over the next several months and by 1904, the new mainenance facilities in Sparks were at full throttle.)

The State of Nevada was looking into the railroads' poor safety record and the lack of shipping tariffs about that time so the settlement was quickly renamed Sparks, in honor of John Sparks, then Governor of Nevada. John Sparks felt honored but, in the end, the appeal to vanity was politically unsuccessful and the state soon forced the safety issues and levied tariffs on the shipping of goods across Nevada. Governor Sparks did host a barbecue for the citizens of Sparks at his Alamo Stock Farm (at Moana Springs, near the present-day site of the Reno-Sparks Convention Center) in celebration of the town's incorporation.

The 1950's saw such growth in Reno that growth also started in Sparks. There was a housing boom north of the railroad yards while the area south of the railroad started filling with warehouses and light industry in the late 1960's, early 1970's. 1984 saw the opening of the first (and so far only) high rise casino hotel in Sparks. The 1980's and 1990's have seen some redevelopment efforts in the downtown district that have resulted in a pedestrian-friendly, plaza-style downtown that sees many open-air events every year.

Fast Facts about Sparks, Nevada
Sparks, Washoe County, NV
Zip Codes: 89431-89436
Incorporated: March 15, 1905
Elevation: 4,413'
Latitude: 39.5545°N
Longitude: 119.7356°W
Resident Racial Breakdown:
White Non-Hispanic: 56.9%
Hispanic: 30.0%
African-American: 2.8%
Native American: 1.1%
Other: 9.1%
Two or More Races: 1.8%
Asian: 6.4%
High School or Higher: 82.2%
Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 17.8%
Graduate or Professional Degree: 5.2%
2009 Estimates:
Population: 89,346
Males: 44,149
Females: 45,197
Median Resident Age: 34.5 Years
Estimated Median Household Income: $50,700
Estimated Median Home Value: $224,600
Population Density: 3,735 People per Square Mile
2011 Cost of Living Index for Sparks: 94.9
Major Industries:
Entertainment & Recreation, Construction, Lodging & Food Services, Health Care, Educational Services, Government, Finance & Insurance Services, Professional Services, Waste Management Services

Unemployed: 13.8% logo
Photos of Sparks courtesy of the City of Sparks.
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