Deer Park

A picnic in Deer Park, 1922
New Town Tract, 1903
Deer Park Service Station
Construction of the Deer Park pool begins, 1941
Construction of the Deer Park pool
Construction of the Deer Park pool
Showers and changing room
Dedication of the Deer Park pool, 1942
Deer Park
A swimming competition at the Deer Park pool
Deer Park, 2014

Deer Park received its name in December 1903, when six tame deer were placed in a small zoo in the East Reno park. Development of the surrounding neighborhood had just begun, prompted by the announcement in spring 1902 of plans to move the Southern Pacific Railroad’s repair shops and roundhouse to the area. By June of that year, real estate developers Ingalls, Hibbard, and McPhail had purchased land along the County Road (later named Prater Way), and soon offered lots in their “New Town Tract,” on the higher land north of the railroad.

The park was the centerpiece of the tract, which bordered the streetcar line running between Reno and Sparks. Lights were installed in 1908, making the grounds even more appealing to the children attending Sparks’ first school, just a few blocks to the east. The deer seem to have been removed after just a few years (after a series of escapes and thefts), although the name remained.

With the establishment of the Lincoln Highway, which ran for many years along Prater Way, Deer Park became the site of a free municipal campground. There, auto tourists could pitch a tent alongside their automobiles and even cook over small campfires (although bonfires were prohibited). A service station on the corner of 17th store, gas pump, and picnic tables, while the park featured a water pump, showers, a tennis court, and playground.

Development of the park shifted into high gear with the influx of New Deal funds in the 1930s and 1940s. The campground closed in 1933, and the following year, CWA and FERA labor graded the park and added a fence. In 1942 came the biggest development of all, a new municipal pool, complete with lifeguards and swimming lessons.

For generations, Deer Park has been the site of picnics, parades, Easter egg hunts, concerts, dances, and even boxing matches. Renovated in 2007, the pool is as popular as ever, and although the deer are a distant memory, the park remains an oasis of shade and foliage along busy Prater Way.


Les Ede, who grew up on Sullivan Lane, just north of Prater Way, recalls swimming in the pool at Deer Park in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Recorded by Alicia Barber.


John Mayer explains how he was at the 1942 dedication of the Deer Park Pool, which his mother attended while pregnant with him. Recorded by Alicia Barber.