Herman Familly Papers on Rancho San Rafael

Identifier: NC1382

Scope and Contents

The Herman Family Papers on Rancho San Rafael document the history of Rancho San Rafael before and as it became a Washoe County regional park. The collection includes some information about the Herman family and the sale of the land in the late 1970s as well as photographs from the ranch, and newspaper clippings. The photographs are of both the ranch and the surrounding area, with views of the Truckee Meadows from the 1940s to the early 1980s. Newspaper clippings primarily document the sale of the ranch, initial purchase by the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), and final purchase by Washoe County.


  • 1943-1981


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Historical Note

Raphael Herman was born on December 15, 1865, near Konigsburg, Germany. He immigrated to the United States in the 1890s and began working in New York City. In 1901, he served as one of the officials of the Pan-American Exposition, which took place in Buffalo, New York. He was the president and treasurer of Diamond Power Specialty Company in 1905 and later served as the president and treasurer of the Power Efficiency Corporation and Calorizing Corporation of America.

Raphael's youngest brother, Norman B. Herman, was educated in France at the Sorbonne and Toulouse Universities before he immigrated to the United States in 1920. He settled in Detroit, Michigan where his brother lived. Sometime in the late 1920s or early 1930s, Norman, his wife, Mariana, and Raphael went on a sight-seeing trip through Nevada. It was after this trip that they decided to purchase property in Reno. The property was purchased in 1935, from the widow of Russel C. Jensen who had had a house designed and built by architect Paul Williams in 1933. The Hermans dubbed the property Rancho San Rafael after Raphael.

In entertaining guests from around the world, Norman and Mariana split time between their ranch and their home in southern California. This continued after the deaths of both Raphael (1946) and Norman (1960). Mariana, who had moved back to southern California after her husband's death, maintained ownership of the ranch until 1979 when the land was purchased by the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). The purchase by PERS was undertaken as a way for Washoe County to raise funds to buy the land from PERS and turn it into a regional park.

[Information gathered from documents within the collection and the Washoe County website, accessed January 9, 2020]


0.25 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



Brothers Raphael and Norman Herman immigrated from Germany and eventually purchased a ranch in Reno, Nevada in 1935. The ranch, named Rancho San Rafael after Raphael, was eventually sold to Washoe County to be used as a regional park. The collection, dated 1943-1981, primarily documents the sale of the ranch to Washoe County and contains a deed, correspondence, photographs, and newspaper clippings related to the ranch.


Arranged without hierarchy with similar document types grouped together.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Sharon Wappman in November 2019.

Related Materials

For more information on Rancho San Rafael, please contact the Park Ranger Office at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park.



Guide to the Herman Family Papers on Rancho San Rafael
Jessica Maddox
January 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)