Coney Island

Coney Island landmarks, present and (we hope) future

Eye On Real Estate: #LandmarkTheBoardwalk

May 11, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Coney Island's Boardwalk is a beautiful thing to behold, even on an unusually chilly spring day. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan

O beloved Boardwalk — you should be a city landmark.

For almost a century, you’ve been the scene of salt air and summer dreams in the People’s Playground.

City Councilmembers Mark Treyger and Chaim Deutsch and Brooklyn residents have been campaigning since 2014 for scenic landmark designation for the Riegelmann Boardwalk.

Recently, a hearing was held at City Hall about a resolution calling on the city Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to grant this protection to the 2.7-mile wooden-plank span along the Atlantic Ocean in Coney Island and Brighton Beach.

It is an icon that has endured since the 1920s. In those days, the average number of visitors to Coney Island on Sunday afternoons was 1 million people.

We found that statistic in a Landmarks Preservation Commission designation report about the Cyclone. The famed roller coaster is one of a handful of iconic Coney Island structures that are city landmarks.

In honor of the Boardwalk and its supporters, we hereby repeat their hashtag #LandmarkTheBoardwalk and offer brief portraits of Coney Island’s current landmarks.

And we’re looking forward to the day the Coney Island Pumping Station’s fans get the long-vacant Art Moderne masterwork landmarked and adaptively reused. There are several stories on this website about this shamefully neglected city-owned property.

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The Cyclone

It was “scarier than flying.”

That’s what famous aviator Charles Lindbergh said about the Cyclone.

The Coney Island roller coaster has tracks made of wood, which is a rarity in modern-day amusement parks. It was built in 1927.

The inventor of the thrill ride at 834 Surf Ave. was Harry Baker and the engineer was Vernon Keenan.

Thanks to a “twister-type circuit” and super-heavy cars, the Cyclone’s trains “travel on their own momentum after being carried up to the first plunge by mechanical means,” the LPC’s designation report about the iconic roller coaster says.

The Cyclone became a city landmark in 1988.

The Wonder Wheel

There are wondrous views of the beach, Brooklyn and the Manhattan skyline from those 24 cars up on the Wonder Wheel.

This much-loved ride on the Boardwalk at 3059 W. 12th St. was invented by Charles Herman and built in 1918-1920 by the Eccentric Ferris Wheel Amusement Company.

The 150-foot-tall Wonder Wheel was designated as a city landmark in 1989.

A shout-out is in order to the Vourderis family for the superb care it has taken of this Coney Island icon. Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park suffered $1 million in damage when Superstorm Sandy hit in October 2012. But the Wonder Wheel was repaired and back in service in March 2013 when Coney Island’s amusements reopened for the season.

The Shore Theater

The long-closed movie theater at 1301 Surf Ave. has a new owner. See related story.

The Parachute Jump

Only the AARP crowd actually knows what it was like to ride on the Parachute Jump.

It ceased operations a half-century ago.

Back in the day, the famous ride had parachutes on it, of course. A seat for two people was attached to each one.

The Parachute Jump’s distinctive skeleton remains standing on the Boardwalk at W. 19th Street — or to be more precise, it’s where W. 19th Street would be if the parking lot of MCU Park weren’t there instead.

The 262-foot-tall “Eiffel Tower of Brooklyn,” which is the Parachute Jump’s nickname, is one of the visual highlights of the Coney Island shoreline. It was built in 1939 for the New York World’s Fair. The inventor was Commander James Strong and the engineer was Elwyn E. Seelye & Company.

In 1940-1941, it was moved from Queens to its current location, which at that time was part of Steeplechase Park.

The Parachute Jump was designated as a city landmark in 1989.

Childs Restaurant Building — AKA the Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk

This 1920s Boardwalk restaurant will be serving up Sting and Beach Boys concerts.

Childs Restaurant, a fancifully decorated Spanish Colonial Revival-style landmark at 3052-3078 W. 21st St., is being turned into an open-air live entertainment venue.

Its new name is the Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk — because an eye-popping white amphitheater is being constructed right next to the historic building. The stage is being constructed inside the former restaurant. In the summer, 50-foot-tall doors on the old building will be opened so that the two structures can function as a single venue.

The first concert is scheduled for June 25. Ziggy Marley will perform.

Childs Restaurant, designed by architects Dennison & Hirons and built in 1923, was designated as a city landmark in 2003.

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