The Jesse Reno School was built in 1903 for African American children. Designed by municipal architect Snowden Ashford, the school had four rooms on the first floor and four on the basement level. Its formal Renaissance-style design acknowledges the dignity of learning, and its large windows let in air and light, reflecting educational principles of its time.
The Jesse Reno School served kindergarten through eighth grade. The students were residents of Reno City, a community that came into existence during the Civil War, when enslaved people fled their owners and began to congregate around Fort Reno. Reno City was subdivided into building lots in 1869, and African Americans who were already living around the remains of the fort were joined by freed slaves from elsewhere. Reno City became a racially integrated working-class community that was about 75% black and 25% white. By the time the Jesse Reno School was built, Reno City had approximately one hundred buildings, including homes, churches, stores, and a Masonic lodge.
In the 1920s there was pressure by residents of the surrounding all-white, middle-class neighborhoods to remove Reno City and use the land for the construction of Fort Reno Park and Deal Junior High and Wilson Senior High Schools. The city began to acquire Reno City properties and ultimately condemned those that the owners refused to sell. As black residents of Reno City were displaced, the enrollment at Reno School declined.
The school closed in 1950. The building was later used as a Civil Defense Office, and in the 1970s and '80s it became the Rose School for students with special needs. It had been vacant for many years, and the interior has been badly vandalized. In 2014 the school was repaired and restored. The front entrance which had been removed was recreated. The original floor plan on its main floor has been retained. A connector to Deal Middle School was built and Reno is again serving its original educational purpose as part of Deal. Tenleytown Historical Society created an exhibit, located in the Reno building and the new connector, on the history of Reno School and the Reno community.