Coney Island (1917)

A hilarious short film starring Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Buster Keaton. There’s a huge love square brewing when three frisky men fight all over Coney Island for the attentions of a pretty, young strumpet. Who will get her heart?

The film is full of amazing physical stunts and pratfalls, and we’re treated to fun visuals of Coney Island’s old rides.

 

 

Coney Island’s “disaster spectacles” thrill crowds

I agree with what the writer said. Our modern day fascination with disaster films is very similar to disaster recreations of the past. Though it wouldn’t have been so thrilling to get caught up in the actual Dream Land fires at Coney Island.

Ephemeral New York

ConeyislandfightingtheflamesConey Island at the turn of the century let visitors escape the conventions of city life and experience a fantastical world: of thrilling rides and exotic animals, carnival games, freak shows, Eskimo and lilliputian villages, even a trip to the moon.

But perhaps the most bizarre exhibits were the disaster spectacles.

These shows recreated a real-life disaster so visitors could witness the death and destruction that took place.

The fall of Pompeii, the San Francisco Earthquake, the eruption of Mount Pelee in Martinique, and the Johnstown and Galveston Floods exhibits were hugely popular.

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“Six hundred veterans of the Boer War, fresh from Johannesburg, re-fought their battles in a 12,000-seat stadium,” stated PBS’ American Experience show about Coney Island.

“Galveston disappeared beneath the flood. Mount Pelee erupted hourly, while across the street, Mount Vesuvius showered death on the people of Pompeii.”

ConeyislandpeleeadsAnother spectacle called “Fire and Flames” had real firemen set…

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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.

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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.

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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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Explaining Coney Island to the rest of the world

It’s that time of year to learn more about the history of one of America’s biggest playgrounds, Coney Island! Great post by Ephemeral New York.

Ephemeral New York

Much has been written about Coney Island, once just a thread of sandy beach supposedly named for its rabbit population (konij is Dutch for rabbit).

By the 1880s, of course, this little outpost had become Sodom by the Sea—a tawdry playground of hotels, pavilions, dime museums, freak shows, amusement parks, exotic animals, and more, all bathed in thousands of colored lights.

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The phenomenon that was Coney Island attracted hordes of working class New Yorkers as well as foreign journalists, who wrote articles attempting to explain Coney to curious readers outside New York City.

Lunapark1906These articles serve as an illuminating look at the spectacle that rose out of the sand in just a few short post-Civil War decades.

“Coney Island, one of the great resorts for the million, is reached from the foot of 23rd Street in about an hour,” wrote English novelist Mary Duffus Hardy in…

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Brighton Beach eats in 1906

If you thought today’s restaurants have delicious entrees and choices, check out this 1906 menu from the Brighton Beach Hotel. It will make you starving! The wine list alone is a mile long. The prices can’t be beat either. You could have a scrumptious 3 or more course feast for probably under $10.00

Ephemeral New York

At the turn of the last century, the sprawling Brighton Beach Hotel served as a more upscale seaside resort than its neighbor, Coney Island.

And if you were wrapping up your summer vacation there in 1906, you’d probably make dinner plans at the hotel restaurant.

So what kind of food and drink would be available to you?

We’re talking about a mind-boggling array of seafood (clear green turtle soup! fried eels!), poultry, caviar, steak, chops, pastries, and ice cream, not to mention a pretty big wine and drink list.

The entire hotel restaurant menu from that year (the front cover is at left) has been preserved as part of the New York Public Library’s menu collection.

It’s a fantastic reference that gives us a peek at the city’s culinary preferences over the years.

The massive menu selection can be viewed here. But for just the seafood, check out this…

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Random Old Brooklyn Facts

In 1790, the population of Brooklyn was a mere 15,394 persons. In 2012 there is still a dispute over the exact amount, but it has ballooned to over 2 and 1/2 million people.

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Coney Island, An Illustrated Guide to the Sea, A first hand account of Coney Island in 1883:

“We sailed down the bay in an antiquated steamer (in 1863), mid scenes of confusion and hilarity. At the landing there was a barn-like bar-room, more conspicuous than the dingy dining-room with two barrels at either end supporting boards used as a lunch or dining counter. Chops, choweder, steaks, etc., of a very inferior quality, were purveyed at the prices of fashionable restaurants in the Metropolis.

“Three-card monte-me and swindlers occupied tables along the beach, which either for bathing purposes or promenade could not be surpassed. It is no exaggeration to say that respectable citizens, and especially ladies, could not visit this Island then without danger of robbery…”