Coney Island Resort (site)

Wieland's Park

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

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. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

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. Image courtesy of Reno Evening Gazette View File Details Page

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. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

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. Image courtesy of Sparks Heritage Museum View File Details Page

Boating at Coney Island, 1909

Boating at Coney Island, 1909

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. Image courtesy of Nevada Historical Society View File Details Page

Picnic grounds, 1910

Picnic grounds, 1910

Visitors to the picnic grounds could purchase soft drinks, sandwiches, ice cream, and other treats. Beer and liquor were available in the Park Bar. Image courtesy of Nevada Historical Society View File Details Page

Dance pavilion

Dance pavilion

The covered dance pavilion featured a stage for musicians and other performers. Orchestras regularly played there on the weekends. Image courtesy of Nevada Historical Society View File Details Page

Playground, 1909

Playground, 1909

The children's playground offered swings, a seesaw, and opportunities for climbing. Image courtesy of Nevada Historical Society View File Details Page

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. 1925 Reno City Directory View File Details Page

Historical marker, 2014

Historical marker, 2014

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. Photo by Alicia Barber View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Alicia Barber, “Coney Island Resort (site),” Reno Historical, accessed August 17, 2017, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/88.

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