There has been a Wheeling Park since before the turn of the 20th century. Until it was deeded to the newly-formed Wheeling Park Commission in 1925, however, the property was in private hands. First, it was an estate so beautiful that people came from miles around to walk the grounds. English immigrant Thomas Hornbrook welcomed his visitors to "Hornbrook's park." Later, it became a private amusement park complete with arcades, amusement rides and games, holiday celebrations, and a swimming pool and casino.
The first White Palace was a wooden pavilion that is no longer standing. In its heyday, old Wheeling Park was owned and operated by the Reymann Brewing Company, who patterned it after the colorful German beer gardens. Sarah Bernhardt, the incomparable French actress, appeared at the park's Casino in 1905, and the building was the scene of plays, operas, and musical shows.
Changing tastes, World War I, and the pending shadow of prohibition led to its closing in the late teens. Soon after, Wheeling Park was deserted and run-down. City movers and shakers, backed by city government and the Chamber of Commerce, had high hopes of raising funds to purchase the park for public use, but their first attempt -- in 1923 -- was not successful. Otto Schenk, president of the Chamber, refused to let the issue die.
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