Chism's Auto Camp

Harry Chism started the Chism's Auto Camp during the summer of 1927 on property his father had acquired in 1880. The property was on the north side of the Truckee River, directly across from Idlewild Park, where the Transcontinental Highway Exposition was being held that summer. Not only was the campground close to the park, it was on West Second Street, an alternate route of the Lincoln Highway that went along the river west of town. It was an ideal location for visitors to stay during the Exposition and a lucrative enterprise for the Chisms.

The original campground included individual campsites, a large tent that housed a kitchen, and another tent that was used as a boathouse. There was also an office with a living area, a gas station, and a small store. The operation was so successful that when Harry died in 1929, his son John took over the park. By then, the park not only catered to auto travelers, but also to divorce-seekers needing a place to live out the residency requirement for getting a so-called "quickie" Reno divorce, so John made a number of improvements including the development of sites for travel trailers, which were gaining in popularity. He later added eight motel units and 16 cold water cabins with an adjoining bathhouse.

By 1958, John Chism added even more trailer spaces. With the business focusing on the mobile home market, the motel units were no longer needed. Four were converted to studio apartments and the others were moved to the Indian Reservation at Schurz. In 1960, John purchased the old Chism home, across from the park. On an acre of land next to the house, he added 15 more mobile home spaces, and in order to retain the overnight trade, he removed the cold water cabins and added six RV spaces.

John Chism retired in 1979, passing along the business to his children, who continued to own it for more than three decades. Chism’s Trailer Park now consists of 124 permanent spaces, 28 RV spaces, two houses and four apartments. Chism’s Trailer Park played a key role in the development of automobile tourism in Reno by catering to motor travelers in automobiles and trailers. It may have been the first trailer park in Reno to accommodate the more permanent mobile homes.

Images

Chism's, 2002

Chism's, 2002

Chism's Trailer Park in 2002, much the same for decades. Photo by Max Chapman | Creator: Photo Courtesy of Max Chapman View File Details Page

Chism's 1997

Chism's 1997

Chism's Trailer Park in 1997. "Overnight Parking." Photo by Mella Harmon. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

Street Address:

1300 West 2nd Street, Reno, NV [map]

Cite this Page:

Mella Harmon, “Chism's Auto Camp,” Reno Historical, accessed March 29, 2017, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/20.

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