Brooklyn hot spots

Coney Island

Coney Island

May 21, 2008

Between 1880 and World War II the largest amusement area in the country resided in Brooklyn. In it’s heyday Coney Island housed three amusement parks, Dreamland, Steeplechase Park, and Luna Park, as well as many independent amusements. The amusement parks in Coney Island attracted millions of visitors each year.

Dreamland was known primarily as a freakshow. Their main attractions were the sideshows of dwarf inhabitants and the one-armed lion tamer Captain Jack Bonavita. Dreamland always struggled to compete with Luna Park and ultimately burned down in before the 1911 season. Dreamland is now the location for the New York Aquarium.

Steeplechase Park was one of the most influential amusement parks of all time. George C. Tilyou, who grew up in a family that ran a Coney Island restaurant, saw a ferris wheel on a trip to Chicago. He decided to build his own, and it instantly became Coney Island’s largest attraction. Tilyou also constructed scaled replicas of the Eiffel Tower, and Big Ben. Steeplechase Park also suffered from fires, the parks in Coney Island were susceptible because of the highly flammable materials. In 1907 the park burned to the ground, but was rebuilt in 1909. The park continued to run until 1964 and today the Parachute Jump attraction is the only remaining artifact, and stands tall as a national landmark.

In 1903, Frederic Thompson and Skip Dundy took their highly successful ‘A Trip to the Moon’ attraction and built a theme park. Luna Park was the second major amusement park in Coney Island. One of the main attractions for Luna Park was the fanciful addition of electric lamps on the outside of buildings. This was especially awe-inspiring because electrification was still very much a novelty. In 1946, after a series of fires and a legal battle, Luna Park was officially closed. The land now houses apartment complexes and is still known as Luna Park to this day.

In 2005, the Coney Island Development Corporation released revitalization plans and in 2010 the new Luna Park was opened. Today the park is home to nineteen new attractions and games. Originally, the state wanted to bring Luna Park back as part of their bid for the Olympics. When they lost the Olympic bid, the response to Luna Park was so high they decided to continue with the plan. Luna Park is now open each year from March to October.

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