Glendale began in 1857 when a trading post was established along the Truckee River to serve emigrants traveling to California. In 1860, a bridge was built, and a small settlement began to form. By 1866, Glendale had a school, two stores, a hotel, market, blacksmith shop, and saloon.

When the Transcontinental Railroad was being surveyed in 1868, Glendale residents were hopeful that their small hamlet would be chosen as the location for the railroad's main facilities. Unfortunately, that year there was a flood and the surveyors found the location unsuitable when they saw the inundated community. As a result, they established Reno at nearby Lake's Crossing and Glendale was bypassed. Following Reno's establishment, most of Glendale's population moved to the new town.

The best known remnant of Glendale is its schoolhouse. The schoolhouse, built 1864, is the oldest remaining schoolhouse in the state and is also reported to be the longest operating school in the state (closing in 1958). The schoolhouse was moved to Sparks in 1976, and is today maintained by the Sparks Heritage Museum.