Thursday, April 28, 2016

Vintage Postcards - Coney Island, Part 1

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

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.


Nanook said...


Although I've visited Coney Island three times, each time riding the Cyclone Coaster, besides seeing some shops and eating several Nathan's Hot Dogs, I haven't been able to do much else. I sure wish I could've ridden both the Tornado & Thunderbolt roller coasters - especially the Thunderbolt, as it was purported to be quite a wild ride. And it also had a cameo in Woody Allen's Annie Hall.

Thanks, Ken.

TokyoMagic! said...

I knew about the parachute tower being saved, but I didn't know the Cyclone coaster was rescued. That is good news! Maybe I will get to experience it one day. When they restored the parachute tower, didn't they equip it with LED lights for a special nighttime light show?

Thanks for sharing these, Ken!

TokyoMagic! said...

Nanook's mention of the Thunderbolt's cameo, reminded me that the parachute tower makes an appearance on the back cover of Cyndi Lauper's "She's So Unusual" album.

DrGoat said...

Last time I was at Coney Island was in '53 when I was
three years old. Only have vague memories of a really
long indoor slide of some sort. Parents decided they
didn't want to raise two kids in Manhattan, so they
picked up and moved to Tucson, where I've been ever
since. Closer to Disneyland, so it worked out for the

K. Martinez said...

Nanook, You've done better than I have. I was in New York City in 2001 and didn't even visit Coney Island. So close, yet I didn't go. For being a coaster enthusiast that is odd. Now I regret it. My only explanation I can think of is there were so manyu other things I wanted to see and do more at the time and Coney Island wasn't near the top of the list. Thanks for that extra bit of info on the Woody Allen movie. I do remember that.

TokyoMagic!, I think I remember that Cyndi Lauper album. Isn't that the one with the big artsy high heel shoes next to it or something like that? I too will have to go back to New York and visit Coney Island someday.

Here's some footage of the Parachute Jump tower LED light show. About 5 minutes into it the nighttime part begins.

DrGoat, Coney Island must've still had a lot of the old stuff in 1953. Sounds like you're glad your parents made the move. So did you get to see Disneyland in the 1950's? That would've been really cool.

Nancy said...

Beautiful views, Ken! I love the coloration of the Steeplechase and Silver Streak postcards. The Cyclone view is awesome! Paratrooper and double Ferris wheel there on the left.

Obviously Christmas time with the little soldier and star on the second two pictures. Wish we could see a sky bucket lol! Do you have any views of this park with all the lights on?

thanks as always for sharing your wonderful collection with us :-)

TokyoMagic! said...

Wow, thanks for that link, Ken! They did a good job with the lighting. Too bad they removed the giant Life Savers from the sides of the towers. Ha, ha. I'm guessing they were never on the tower once it left the World's Fair.

The picture on the Cyndi Lauper album is looking straight up with the top of the tower in the background and the bottoms of her shoes in the foreground. On the soles of her shoes are partial images from Van Gogh's "Starry Night".

walterworld said...

I'm stepping into Ringside Johnny's Sandwiches for a Pastrami & Swiss...with extra mustard.

Thanks Ken

K. Martinez said...

Nancy, I agree. The Silver Streak postcard is very colorful and what attracted me to buy it. It's one of my favorites cards of any amusement park. Good eye on the Christmas d├ęcor. That's what I love about sharing these postcard images with others. You pointed out something new I didn't notice before: the Christmas stuff. Thanks!

TokyoMagic!, yes, I remember that back cover now. Thanks for the link.

walterworld, Never heard of Ringside Johnny's but the sandwich sounds delicious! Glad you enjoyed these.

DrGoat said...

Yes, our first trip was in '56. We went every summer till
about 1970 when I started going on my own. We got 2 days
in Disneyland, 1 day in Knotts, then a couple of days
in San Diego at the zoo and Balboa Park. Then reluctantly
back to Tucson, clutching our Disneyland souvenirs.

walterworld said...

Ken: 3rd picture, lower right for 'Ringside Johnny's'.

Maybe there was a boxing venue nearby?

Thanks again!

Unknown said...

I'm a little late to the party but I wanted to say thanks, Mr. M, for all of your very generous pictures and commentary. It's all very good stuff.