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Wheeling Park

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The White Palace sits at the heart of Wheeling Park. The first building at this site was called the Casino, and was an entertainment center when Wheeling Park was still privately owned and operated. The Casino burnt down just a few months after the city of Wheeling acquired it. This structure was replaced by the White Palace, though the official name of the building was the Otto Schenk Memorial Pavilion after a Wheeling Park philanthropist. The pavilion was an open air structure until the 1950s, when several renovations and expansions began transforming the building into what you see today. The White Palace continues to be a cultural hub of Wheeling Park.

The Casino, a precursor to the White Palace that burnt down.

Building, Plant, Sky, Facade

The first version of the White Palace, ca. 1926-1950.

Tree, Tints and shades, Arch, Facade

The interior of the White Palace, before it was enclosed.

Building, Line, Bridge, Tints and shades

Otto Schenk, 1868 - 1933.

Forehead, Coat, Collar, White-collar worker

Sculpture of Otto Schenk on the White Palace by Julio Kilyeni.

Picture frame, Coat, Art, Sculpture

The White Palace today.

Cloud, Plant, Sky, Building

The White Palace, officially named the Otto Schenk Memorial Pavilion, is one of Wheeling Park’s oldest surviving structures. The building was a replacement for the Casino, a large circular building that was a popular gambling and entertainment spot before prohibition. The Casino operated in the final two decades of the nineteenth century through the first two of the twentieth and hosted a variety of celebrity entertainers, such as French titan of the stage, Sarah Bernhadt, who performed at the Casino in 1905. Though the Casino building was still extant when the city of Wheeling acquired it and began to create Wheeling Park, it burned down in 1925, after not even a full year under new ownership. The Wheeling Park Commission opted to replace the Casino with an open-air dance hall which locals quickly dubbed the White Palace. 

From 1926 until 1950, the White Palace was the preeminent location in Wheeling for dances, balls, wedding receptions, and other social gatherings in temperate months. By 1950 however, Wheeling Park was beginning to transition to a year-round location. As part of this initiative, work began to enclose the White Palace. The pavilion remained semi-open to the outdoors for almost a decade before finally becoming a true enclosed building. Over the next few decades, many additions were made to the White Palace. Construction of the attached Memorial Ice Rink in 1959 necessitated true enclosure for the building. These days, the White Palace hosts a variety of events year-round. It also houses the Wheeling Park administrative offices, an arcade, gameroom, and a spacious ballroom.

Otto Schenk, for whom the White Palace is officially named, was an important figure in Wheeling Park’s history. Schenk was born in Wheeling in 1868 to German immigrant parents. He worked at his father’s meat packing firm and established himself as a businessman through other profitable ventures. He was serving as a charter member and first chairman of the Wheeling Park Commission, when Wheeling Park’s site was up for sale. Schenk was instrumental in raising funds for the park by the deadline. Even after the park was established, Schenk continued his support. He donated an aviary, established a fund for a concert series, and provided a majority of the money needed to rebuild the White Palace. In recognition of his philanthropic endeavours involving Wheeling Park, the newly rebuilt White Palace was named in Schenk’s honor. A plaque and small bronze sculpture adorn the White Palace. The plaque reads “His devotion to the cause of public recreation distinguished him most in the eyes of people who enjoyed, and who will enjoy in perpetuity, the things his kindness and interest helped make possible… This devotion was as much a part of him as his simplicity, his energy and his sterling integrity.” The bronze sculpture is a relief portrait bust of Schenk in a suit and tie. Schenk died in 1933, just eight years after Wheeling Park was established.

Andrew, Patrick. National Road Corridor Historic District, National Register of Historic Places. June 4th 1993. Accessed February 15th 2021.

History of Wheeling Park, Wheeling Park. Accessed February 12th 2021.

Jourdan, Katherine M. and Laura J. Pfeifer. National Road Corridor Historic District, National Register of Historic Places. April 20th 1992. Accessed February 12th 2021.

Special Occasion Facilities, Wheeling Park. Accessed February 12th 2021.

Wheeling Hall of Fame: Otto Schenk, Ohio County Public Library. Accessed February 12th 2021.

Wheeling Park, City of Wheeling, WV. Accessed February 12th 2021.

Wheeling Park, Ohio County Public Library. Accessed February 12th 2021.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

“Casino at Wheeling Park, Wheeling W. Va.” Ca. 1920. West Virginia & Regional History Center. Accessed February 12, 2021.

“White Palace, Wheeling Park, Wheeling, W. Va.” Ca. 1926-1950. West Virginia & Regional History Center. Accessed February 12, 2021.

Ca. 1908. “Interior Dance Hall, Wheeling Park, Wheeling, W. Va.” West Virginia & Regional History Center. Accessed February 15, 2021.

Ohio County Public Library. Accessed February 12, 2021.

Smithsonian American Art Museum. Accessed February 12, 2021.!siartinventories&view=subscriptionsummary&uri=full=3100001~!310882~!4&ri=3&aspect=Browse&menu=search&ipp=20&spp=20&staffonly=&term=Outdoor+Sculpture+--+West+Virginia+--+Wheeling&index=&uindex=&aspect=Browse&menu=search&ri=3.

Waymarking. Accessed February 12, 2021.