An 1892 view of Bowery Bay Beach, via Barbara Williams collection for Carousel Corner
This past holiday weekend, New Yorkers flocked to Coney Island for the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, the fireworks display, and to enjoy the beach and boardwalk. For some, though, traveling all the way out to the end of Brooklyn with beach chairs and coolers is daunting, which is why it’s sad to learn that back in the 19th century, there was another amusement destination in the city, at the site of present-day LaGuardia Airport.
Bowery Bay Beach (later named North Beach) opened in 1886 on the shores of Bowery and Flushing Bays. Built by noted piano manufacturer William Steinway in partnership with brewer George Ehret, it included beaches, swimming pavilions, a huge beer hall, zoo, and the Gala Amusement Park. At one time it was more popular than the parks in Brooklyn, earning it the moniker “the Coney Island of Queens.”