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.

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