The gaudy elephant hotel of 1880s Coney Island

I love finding articles on old Coney Island, and it’s the perfect time of year for it. The over-a-century old Brooklyn hotspot is constantly being reinvented, despite catastrophic fire damages in the past, and the economy turning on a dime. And recent natural disasters like hurricane Sandy.
With the way the crowds are packing in this summer, it’s experiencing yet another Renaissance.

Ephemeral New York

When Coney Island went from remote sandbar resort to the city’s biggest beachfront playground in the 1880s, tawdry amusement attractions began to pop up on the West End: beer halls, roller coasters, and freak shows.

Elephanthotelnyhs

But perhaps the gaudiest addition was the Elephantine Colossus, a nearly 200-foot tall hotel sheathed in blue tin and with a gilded howdah on top.

Encircled by the Shaw Channel Chute roller coaster, the hotel looked like a bizarro version of one of the live pachyderms on exhibit at Coney Island’s amusement parks at the turn of the century.

Elephanthotelcolorpostcard

Completed in 1885 at Surf Avenue and West 12th Street, the 12-story elephant was divided into 31 rooms. Visitors could also climb to the observatory and pay 10 cents to get an incredible aerial view of New York City by looking through the elephant’s eyes, which were actually telescopes.

Elephanthotelrollercoaster“The forelegs contained a cigar store…

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