Wheeling Park existed before the turn of the 20th century and was privately owned by English immigrant Thomas Hornbrook. It was an estate so beautiful that people came from miles around to walk the grounds. After Hornbrook’s death, Wheeling Park was owned and operated by the Reymann Brewing Company. It was patterned after the colorful German beer gardens with arcades, amusement rides, games, holiday celebrations, a swimming pool and casino. World War I and the pending shadow of prohibition led to the closing of the park in the late teens. Soon after, Wheeling Park was deserted and run-down. City officials 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 of Commerce, refused to let the issue die.
In December 1924, two Wheeling businessmen, Charles Sonneborn and Louis Haller, took an option on the property with the intent of subdividing it. First, however, they offered to give the park to the public if $350,000 could be raised to buy and equip the park and if it would be placed under non-political management. The plan was announced in the newspapers and the public was given two weeks to raise the funds. W.E. Stone, prominent businessman-philanthropist, offered to give the first $100,000 and his offer drew in other substantial gifts (including one from Earl W. Oglebay of Cleveland). By 7:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, more than 170 pledges assured that the goal had been reached. In its headline on December 25, the Wheeling Intelligencer proclaimed, “Wheeling Park is a Christmas Gift to the Wheeling Public.”