Reno's urban core begins where Virginia Street crosses the Truckee River. In the 1860s this was the site of the Truckee Meadows' first bridge and a toll road to Virginia City, known as the Sierra Valley Road (Virginia Street). Myron Lake operated the bridge and toll-road franchise, and when the Central Pacific arrived, he donated sixty acres as a townsite, creating Reno. For several decades during the twentieth century, Reno's downtown prospered not only as a mecca for gambling and the divorce trade but also as a center for government and a variety of businesses. Several historically and architecturally significant structures stand at this intersection: the Reno Downtown Post Office, the Riverside Hotel, and the Washoe County Courthouse. Since the 1930s, however, casino interests have dominated downtown. Most of the area's businesses now cater to tourists who have come to Reno specifically to gamble rather than to local residents who seek a variety of services and entertainment. As casinos have become larger and parking has become more of a problem, many of Reno's historic structures have fallen under the wrecking ball, replaced by garish, multistory parking garages. The city's efforts to revitalize downtown with a riverside walk have proved somewhat successful in that the area offers space for cultural festivals, but much of the time downtown Reno's streets are devoid of pedestrians.
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