Thursday, April 28, 2016
Ken Martinez has more vintage amusement park postcards for you today... I especially love old photos of venerable Coney Island, so this post is an extra good one!
Coney Island Part 1
Coney Island has a rich and colorful history. It isn't so much an amusement park as it is more an amusement district with such famous parks from the past like Luna Park, Dreamland, and Steeplechase Park, to later parks like Astroland, Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, and various indempendent operators and vendors. Back in its gloden age it was the largest assembly of amusements in one area. Coney Island has gone through its ups and downs through its long history, but still remains an amusement center to this day and has recently had a revival of sorts with references to its past.
Steeplechase Park was the creation of George Tilyou and operated from 1908 - 1964. After closing, the Tilyou familyh sold the land to Fred C. Trump (father of Donald Trump). Today the Parachute Jump tower is all that remains of Steeplechase Park. The Parachute Jump was purchased by George Tilyou's son Frank from the 1939 New York World's Fair, then disassembled and reassembled in Steeplechase Park. The Park and the Parachute Jump closed permanently in 1964. The tower structure has remained dormant since then. The newly restored Tower structure was revealed in 2013 at the new Luna Park, part of the amusement district's recent revival efforts.
Trump wanted to build high-rise apartments on the land but plans fell through, so he leased the land to a group who ran it as a parking lot. Later rides were added to turn it into a small amusement park. This all happened from 1967 to 1981. Eventually Trump sold the land. Pictured here is the colorful Silver Streak ride.
The Tornado operated from 1926 to 1977 at Henderson and Bowery Street. The lengthy block it was built on was narrow with a maximum of 70 feet wide in one area and a minimum of fifty feet wide in another area. In one area the coaster structure overhung the street by five feet. The coaster reached a height of 71 feet and the coaster trains incorporated the Prior and Church design (articulated).
Coney Island's Cyclone, probably the most famous roller coaster, was located in Astroland. The structure is actually steel while the track is wood based, thus classifying it as a wooden coaster. It was made a National Historical Landmark in 1991. Operating from 1927 to 1969, it was closed from 1970 to 1975 and was in danger of being demolished to make way for an expansion of the Aquarium just east of the coaster. With a "Save the Cyclone" campaign, Astroland leased the land and reopened the classic coaster which has been operating since.
Here is the Mickey Wheel. Oops! I mean the Wonder Wheel at Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park. I always wondered why Disney built the gargantuan Ferris Wheel in California Adventure when it really was a New York icon.
Hope you enjoyed your visit to some of the amusement parks at Coney Island. In a future post I will feature postcards from the golden age of Coney Island.
Information source material:
The Great American Amusement Park copyright 1976 by Gary Kyrazi
Funland U.S.A. copyright 1978 by Tim Onosko
Roller Coaster Database http://rcdb.com/
Oh man, do I wish I could have seen these places back in their heyday. That includes the older parks such as Luna Park and Dreamland too. Fantastic! Thanks so much to Ken Martinez for yet another great post.