BROOKLYN COLLEGE LIBRARY ARCHIVES
AND SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
Accession Number #2009-004
In 1609, Henry Hudson discovered Coney Island. It would
become a major resort after the Civil War and the site
of popular amusement parks by the early twentieth century.
Tourists traveled far and wide to experience Coney Island
as did many New Yorkers who took day trips to Coney
Island to escape the hustle and bustle of Manhattan.
1829 was the year that the Coney Island House opened.
With the creation of “Shell Road,” Coney
Island was connected to Brooklyn and began its life
as a seaside resort. By 1860, railroads, street car
lines, and steamship lines had all reached the area.
With such unbridled access to the beach came major hotels,
public and private beaches, horse racing, amusement
parks, and entertainment like Three Card Monte, other
gambling games, and even prostitution. By the early
part of the twentieth, when Brooklyn Transit Company
electrified the steam railroads and connected Brooklyn
to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge, Coney Island became
a way to escape the city.
There were many main attractions that enticed people
to come and visit the beach, the boardwalk, and the
growing number of rides. One of the main ones was the
Parachute Jump, which had once been part of the 1939
New York’s World Fair. The Cyclone, originally
called the Switchback, and Wonder Wheel (a ferris wheel
with both stationary and rocking cars) were just as
popular. Rides became the biggest draw –of course
after the welcoming beachfront land itself.
The first enclosed permanent amusement park in North
America opened in Coney Island in 1895 and it was called
Sea Lion Park in 1895. It was built by Paul Boyton.
The park had an aquatic show, water rides, and a rollercoaster.
Competition arose with George Tilyou’s Steeplechase
Park which opened in 1897. Boyton was unable to compete
with the rides and attractions at Steeplechase Park
and closed Sea Lion Park in 1902. By 1907 Steeplechase
Park was destroyed by fire, but partially rebuilt in
1908. The Parachute Jump, purchased after the 1939 World’s
Fair, was very successful, however by 1964, much had
changed at Steeplechase Park and the park closed due
to accidents, clashes between Tilyou family members,
and rising crime in the Coney Island neighborhood. In
1903, Fredrick Thompson and Elmer Dundy had purchased
land around Coney Island and created Luna Park which
also became very popular, but it too closed after several
fires. After 1945, it officially closed and the land
was used for various venues until Astroland was built.
Astroland opened in 1962 based on America’s advances
in space travel. It was viewed as a space aged theme
park. The idea for Astroland belonged to Dewey Albert
and his friends Nathan Handwerker, Herman Rapps, Sydney
Robbins, and Paul Yampo. The men formed a corporation
called Coney Island Enterprises. By 1957, Rapps and
Albert opened Wonderland, which became known as Astroland.
Over the years, there have been 22 rides for adults,
14 rides for children, along with games, arcades, and
In November 2006, the Albert family sold Astroland
for $30 million to Thor Equities. Rumors spread about
what was to happen to the amusement park. Presently
Thor Equities is planning on building a $1.5 billion
year-round resort. As part of the agreement with the
Albert family, the Cyclone, Astrotower, and Water Flume
continued to operate temporarily. In April 2007, Astroland
celebrated its 45th anniversary of its opening, but
in September 2008 it officially closed to the public
for good. Astroland is considered the last amusement
park at Coney Island.
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