The Escallier family (Cyril and Pauline) moved to Reno after the 1906 earthquake and bought a home at 629 Mill Street This existing building was known as the Wedekind Townhouse. On the back of the lot, they built a wooden structure in 1910 and opened the French Laundry. They had worked with Cyril's brother at his French Laundry in San Francisco and then San Rafael.
This business was in high demand for the wealthy clients with lace curtains, tablecloths and ornate clothing. Among their patrons were actress Barbara Hutton, Bill Graham and James McKay of the Old Bank Club, and the men of the cloth at St. Thomas Aquinas. In addition to their distinguished clientele, the laundry boasted the first Model A delivery truck ever to careen the streets of Reno.
In 1913, the addition of the first 20 ft. by 25 ft. brick portion of the building was added. This is when the laundry changed from hand washing to mechanized washing. That addition housed the boiler for hot water, work tables and a large horizontal tub washing machine and an extractor. The extractor was to spin, and was driven by an electric motor through overhead reel and leather belts. Shortly after, another 20 ft. by 25 ft. addition was added to the rear of the structure. This was used as a garage for the laundry truck, for loading and unloading. Later the four wood front windows were replaced with two metal framed window and the front of the building was stuccoed and painted. Also both sides of the wood frame structure were veneered with brick.
In 1925 the Escalliers purchased the house on the west side at 617 Mill Street and used it as a rental. In 1942, they retired from the laundry business. Eastside Cleaners leased the front portion of the building, but they moved to another location in 1961.
The last occupant before the Co-op came in was Custom Wood Design, a cabinet making business, from 1964 to 1965. It took quite a bit of refurbishing, and initially only the front portion of the building was leased, with about 4 ft. allocated to each of the artists. As the gallery prospered, the co-op members hired a contractor to assist with enlarging and refurbishing the interior once again. At first narrow horizontal slats were affixed to the walls and bent shirt hangers were used to hang the art. with the third expansion, pegboard was affixed to the walls to provide ease of hanging.
In 1969, the east half of the lot along with the house at 629 Mill Street were sold. The house was demolished and was replaced by other business structures.
In 1972, it became time to finish off the fourth room. Arthur Kleppe, friend of Lyle and Ester Ball, offered wood from is family barn, which was about to be demolished. This barn was built in 1873, and has been a great accent to the last (called "Feature") room.
In 1988, a fire damaged the rental property at 617 Mill Street. The house was demolished and cleared to make way for a parking lot, fencing and landscaping.
The children of Cyril and Pauline, Paul and Sherry Escallier, are still the "landlords" of the property and are pleased to have been a part of the long and successful history of the Artists Co-op. They were present to help us celebrate the 50th anniversary this May.