Deno’s Wonder Wheel courtesy of kzoop’s Flickr
While New Yorkers have been celebrating the historic seaside resort all summer long, this weekend the Coney Island History Project is hosting its seventh annual history day. On Saturday, August 5, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., attendees can learn about all of the classic rides and attractions of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, take a self-guided tour, and listen to free folksy music. Since it was built in 1920, more than 40 million people have experienced the park’s iconic Wonder Wheel.
Developer John Catsimatidis’ Red Apple Group has filed plans for a 21-story tower on a Surf Avenue parcel that he purchased last summer according to Brooklyn Daily; the tower is part of a three-building Coney Island project that will likely include 415 apartments and retail. In the billionaire grocery mogul’s typically patient fashion, he has slowly been acquiring the Boardwalk-adjacent lots between West 35th and West 37th streets for the project, called Ocean Dreams, since 2005.
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When you think of Coney Island, cutting edge technology probably doesn’t come to mind. But more than a century ago, this little enclave of amusement and thrills was where the world’s very first working escalator was installed.
In 1896, engineer Jesse W. Reno brought his patented “Endless Conveyor Elevator” (though he called it the “inclined elevator”) to the Old Iron Pier at Coney Island. Reno’s invention stretched a mere seven feet angled at 25-degrees, and instead of steps, the escalator used a conveyor-like belt fashioned with cast-iron cleats for traction. The Coney Island installation is said to have carried over 75,000 patrons over its two-week residency.
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Image via creative commons by Mark Hout
If visiting Coney Island has long been on your list of NYC to-dos, this weekend might be the best weekend to head down to the famed beach and boardwalk. On top of what will be gorgeous weather, per the Coney Island Blog, the amusement park’s iconic wooden roller coaster will be offering FREE rides to 89 thrill-seekers. The roller coaster, which normally costs $10 a go, will kick off its promo Sunday at noon in celebration of its 89th birthday (it opened June 26, 1927). So hold onto your hats—and your lunches—and be sure to take some time to absorb the history of this inimitable destination.
It’s not often that you’ll go to a New York restaurant and find “hot dog” on the menu. The meaty delight is typically reserved for baseball games (in the foot-long variety) and summertime jaunts on the boardwalk. And of course when we say boardwalk in NYC, we’re talking about Coney Island, widely believed to be the birthplace of the modern American frankfurter.
The name Nathan’s has become synonymous with Coney Island, whether it be for the annual hot dog-eating contest where Joey Chestnut reigns supreme or the childhood nostalgia of the boardwalk. It’s also become arguably the biggest name in the hot dog world in general. But, believe it or not, Nathan’s was not the first place to serve up franks in the seaside neighborhood. That distinction goes to Feltman’s, which was begun in 1867 as a pushcart by German immigrant Charles Feltman, considered the inventor of the hot dog on a bun.
Find out how the Coney Island hot dog got its start
In a city where hundreds of interesting happenings occur each week, it can be hard to pick and choose your way to a fulfilling life. Art Nerd‘s philosophy is a combination of observation, participation, education and of course a party to create the ultimate well-rounded week. Jump ahead for Art Nerd founder Lori Zimmer’s top picks for 6sqft readers!
Get sexy with art twice this week, with House of Yes’s LUST event where art, erotica, performance and food combine, or bust out your best clam shell bra for the 34th annual Mermaid Day Parade in Coney Island. Get schooled by some of the world’s best creatives during the Awwwards Festival, learn how to focus your career with Hope McGrath, then get into the mind of threeASFOUR’s Ange for an artist talk at Untitled. The International Print Center gears up for their Summer Show, and Williams Carmona reflects on Cuba at HG Contemporary. With summer here, the French Films on the Green are back, with free screenings each week in parks across the 5 boroughs.
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Steeplechase Park circa 1930-45, via Digital Commonwealth
Steeplechase Park was the first of Coney Island‘s three original amusement parks (in addition to Luna Park and Dreamland) and its longest lasting, operating from 1897 to 1964. It had a Ferris Wheel modeled after that of Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition, a mechanical horse race course (from which the park got its name), scale models of world landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben, “Canals of Venice,” the largest ballroom in the state, and the famous Parachute Jump, among other rides and attractions.
After World War II, Coney Island’s popularity began to fade, especially when Robert Moses made it his personal mission to replace the resort area’s amusements with low-income, high-rise residential developments. But ultimately, it was Fred Trump, Donald’s father, who sealed Steeplechase’s fate, going so far as to throw a demolition party when he razed the site in 1966 before it could receive landmark status.
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, Tue, September 15, 2015
In 1906, architect Samuel Friede announced his plans to build the Coney Island Globe Tower, a 700-foot-tall, 11-story structure that would have contained the Brooklyn neighborhood’s attractions in one giant globe in the air. A New York Tribune cover revealing the project said investors were being offered “a ground floor chance to share profits in the largest steel structure ever erected…the greatest amusement enterprise in the whole world…the best real estate venture.”
Had the $1,500,000 plan gone through, the whimsical structure (part Unisphere, part Eiffel Tower) would have contained restaurants (one of which would rotate), an observatory, the United States Weather Observation Bureau and Wireless Telegraph Station, a vaudeville theater, the world’s largest ballroom, bowling alley, roller skating rink, casinos, 50,000-room hotel, 5,000-seat hippodrome, and a four large circus rings.
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“Coney Island, the world’s greatest fun frolic, with its beach miles long, all peppered with people. The place where merriment is king.” That’s the opening line in this fun video that offers a tour of 1940s Coney Island during its heyday as the go-to summer destination.
The narrator describes the millions of people on the boardwalk and beach, and while this might seem like an exaggeration at first, the footage clearly shows hordes of revelers sunbathing, swimming, lining up for the freakshow, and enjoying the rides (many of which probably wouldn’t be deemed safe today). There’s also great scenes of the Miss Coney Island contest (a swimsuit beauty pageant where the judge takes out the tape measurer for the contestants’ waists), the famous Cyclone, and Luna Park lit up at night.
Watch the nostalgic video here
- Photo essay by Nathan Kensinger documents the changing Coney Island boardwalk. [Curbed]
- The city’s 10 oldest surviving commercial real estate dynasties. [BisNow]
- Thomas Heatherwick’s designs may be unique and evocative (just look at the renderings for his Pier 55 floating park), but at what price? [NYTimes]
- A new infographic from the Design Trust links urban agriculture to positive impacts in neighborhoods. [BuzzBuzzHome News]
- Potholes aren’t just terrible for cars; they’re terrible for the city’s budget. [WSJ]
- Designers weigh in on what they think NYC’s climate change museum should look like, that is if it comes to fruition. [Next City]
Images: Coney Island boardwalk by Nathan Kensinger for Curbed (L); Second Avenue pothole (R)