Filed Under Recreation

Coney Island Resort (site)

Founded in 1904 as Wieland's Park, the family resort featured a bandstand, dance pavilion, playground, and artificial lake.

The electric streetcar line established between Reno and Sparks in 1904 enabled easy commuting between the two towns and spurred the creation of many new neighborhoods. It also led to the founding of the area’s first family resort, Wieland’s Park, later known as Coney Island.

Wieland’s Park opened in July 1905 at a point known as “Asylum Crossing,” due to its proximity to what was then called the Nevada Insane Asylum. Running every 30 minutes at a cost of five cents from either Reno or Sparks, the streetcar provided easy access to the new family getaway.

The resort’s founder and proprietor, Otto Benschuetz, was a German immigrant and much-beloved Reno resident who managed the local agency of the San Francisco-based John Wieland Brewing Company. When he purchased the property in May 1905, local papers speculated that a new Wieland brewing plant would be constructed on the site. Instead, Benschuetz opened a resort, which he named after the company.

Benschuetz reportedly spent $10,000 beautifying the three-acre property. He planted trees and shrubbery and constructed covered picnic structures and a bandstand in the center of a large garden. The newspaper called the new resort, extravagantly lit with electric lights at night, “a perfect garden of Paradise.” In June 1909, Benschuetz renamed the resort Coney Island, after the legendary East coast amusement park. Admission to the grounds, open daily, was free, and local orchestras played for concerts and dances on Sunday afternoons and evenings.

The resort’s main attraction was its artificial lake, which featured the state's only gasoline boat launch outside of Lake Tahoe and was stocked with hundreds of trout. Surrounded by a short fence for safety, the lake offered boat rentals and racing, and frequent demonstrations by champion swimmers. The grounds also featured a children’s playground, dance pavilion, refreshments, and a bar. Otto Benschuetz died in 1912, ending the resort’s heyday. By that time, Belle Isle had opened on a small island in the center of Reno and an interurban trolley line ran to Moana Springs, another resort south of town.

In 1924, as increased numbers of tourists began to travel cross-country via the Lincoln and Victory Highways, E. F. Whitton opened the Coney Island Auto Park at the site. One of the first auto camps in the area, it offered “modern cottages” with shower baths, individual kitchenettes, a gas station, groceries, and auto supplies. The old resort’s dance pavilion burned down in 1930 and the other remaining buildings were later removed. The site is commemorated by State Historical Marker #240.

Images

Merry-go-round and swings
Merry-go-round and swings A leisurely afternoon could be spent at Coney Island, with a merry-go-round for the children (left), imported steel swings, and plenty of room to promenade. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
Wieland's Park
Wieland's Park Streetcars ran to Wieland Park, Coney Island's precursor, located on the far eastern edge of Reno from 1905-1909. Here, the No. 5 car passes the Southern Pacific roundhouse (left) at the end of the line in Sparks carrying a banner advertising the park's Sunday activities. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
Grand Opening, 1909
Grand Opening, 1909 A newspaper advertisement announced the Grand Opening of the "first class family resort" as Coney Island in June 1909. Source: Reno Evening Gazette Date: June 12, 1909
Artificial lake
Artificial lake "Fairy boats" and rowboats were just some of the attractions at Coney Island's artificial lake, which even featured a small island. Source: Sparks Museum and Cultural Center
Boating at Coney Island
Boating at Coney Island Coney Island's sizeable lake was the site of boat races, high diving demonstrations, and peaceful rowing. A covered wooden boat launch allowed visitors to embark and disembark gracefully. Source: Nevada Historical Society Date: 1909
Picnic grounds
Picnic grounds Visitors to the picnic grounds could purchase soft drinks, sandwiches, ice cream, and other treats. Beer and liquor were available in the Park Bar. Source: Nevada Historical Society Date: 1910
Dance pavilion
Dance pavilion The covered dance pavilion featured a stage for musicians and other performers. Orchestras regularly played there on the weekends. Source: Nevada Historical Society
Playground
Playground The children's playground offered swings, a seesaw, and opportunities for climbing. Source: Nevada Historical Society Date: 1909
Auto Camp
Auto Camp The Coney Island Auto Camp opened in 1924, operated by E.F. Whitton. It was one of the first auto camps along the route of the Lincoln and Victory Highways as they converged through Reno and Sparks. Source: Reno City Directory Date: 1925
Historical marker
Historical marker Today, a state historical marker commemorates the former site of the Coney Island resort, at the intersection of E. 4th Street and Galletti Way, near the entrance to Interstate 80. Creator: Alicia Barber Date: 2014

Metadata

Alicia Barber, “Coney Island Resort (site),” Reno Historical, accessed April 12, 2024, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/88.