By Professor Solomon
As soon as well known as a funspot, Coney Island has been mostly forgotten. Does it nonetheless exist? What has survived of where? And what used to be it like? In his new publication CONEY ISLAND, Professor Solomon takes us there to determine. Roaming approximately, he interviews old-timers' searches for antiquities, explores what's left of the entertainment sector. (Among his unearths: a guy who recalls seeing the 1st human cannonball, shot into the air at Coney Island; the is still of Steeplechase Park; and a trip "the ask yourself Wheel"that started as a perpetual-motion machine.) He additionally offers a historical past of Coney Island, from its Canarsie Indian days, to its period as a lawless, Tijuana-style inn, to the increase and fall of its enjoyment parks. in this ancient travel, you will meet such personages as John Y. McKane (notorious mayor of Coney Island); George Tilyou (amusement-park pioneer); and the Wild guy of Borneo (actually, an actor from the Bronx). and you may stopover at the Pavilion of enjoyable, French Nudi! st show, Elephant inn, journey to the Moon, Insanitarium, Tunnel of affection, flea circus, Feltman's eating place (where the recent puppy used to be invented), and different vanished points of interest. the result's a desirable profile of a special, and persevering, position.
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Extra resources for Coney Island
62 insubstantial fantasy of plaster and lath was producing hard currency. But what about Steeplechase? Was “the Funny Place” suffering from such formidable competition? Not at all. Thompson and Dundy had brought new crowds out to the beach; and everyone was beneﬁting, from Tilyou down to the lowliest pedlar. It was called Dreamland. com 12 I have reached these lands but newly From an ultimate dim Thule— From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime Out of space—out of time. —poe, “Dreamland” Dreamland was built by a group of New York business men and politicians who had sniffed proﬁt in the salt air.
Vesuvius that would seek to outspew Mt. Pelée down the street. Two versions of the same fantasy had materialized on the beach —each with a seductive gate, through which (for a small fee) one might pass beyond the cares of this world. The Alpine Scenic Railway offered rides through a stage set of Switzerland. And the park’s owners had acquired the Iron Pier and constructed a ballroom on it. It included Bonavita the lion tamer; Professor Worm wood and his performing monkeys; a“bona ﬁde” Wild Man of Borneo (actually an Alsatian from the Bronx, his face darkened with burnt cork), who grunted savagely as part of the ballyhoo outside the animal tent; and Omar Sami, the celebrated barker, looking exotic in his turban and red * That music might have been the first sound of America to be heard by immigrants arriving in the harbor.
And in 1911 came another ﬁre, the most dramatic yet. It was never rebuilt. For a few short years the dream had dazzled the crowds. But sly servicemen got around the rule by patronizing saloons in their bathing suits. The latter was New York’s original theater district; then, for many years, its skid row. Had he stood among those who had watched it burn that night, he might have murmured: Weeds of ﬁre do swiftly overgrow The tinsel towers where bloomed a thousand ﬂags; And wither the brief and insubstantial spires Where Joy was wont to perch, that now takes wing As conﬂagration, like a dragon’s breath, Shrinks and blackens all that once was gay.