Coney Island - Timeline
- Henry Hudson's "Half Moon", in search of a new route to the Indies
(Asia), anchors in Gravesend Bay, west of Coney in September. He
trades with the Canarsie Indians, but the next day they attack his
shore party on an exploring excursion. One man is killed
and the following day Hudson seizes two Indians as hostage.
- Dutch officials offered to let a group of English religious dissenters
from New England led by Lady Moody establish a colony at Gravesend
near the beach. They figured the colony would be a buffer for them
from the Indians who used the beach to collect clams and wampum
(strings of beads made from periwinkle shells - used for money)
and as a hideout for their woman and children in time of war.
- The local indians were completely wiped out by the rival Mohawk Indians
for failing to pay tribute to the Five Nations. Being poor and under -
armed, they mistakenly believed that the Dutch would protect them.
- The Dutch East Indies Company granted a monopoly on salt manufacture to a merchant named Dick de Wolf. The Gravesend farmers were furious when he
started a salt works on the nearby beach. They promptly destroyed De Wolf's garden and ripped out his protecting palasade and threatened De Wolf and his
foreman with their lives. The governor was ordered to send soldiers to
restore the salt works. Since it meant war with Gravensend, he delayed action
for several months.
- The Coney Island Road and Bridge Company built the Shell Road across
the creek that separated Coney Island from the mainland. They also
built a hotel called the Coney Island House.
- Pirates, who had seized the brig Vineland and its treasure of $54,000
in Mexican silver, sailed the ship north, set it afire and scuttled
it near Coney Island. They rowed ashore in a nasty gale and lost most
of the loot near Rockaway Beach. They buried what remained, about $5000.
They stayed at a local inn and one of the men confessed to two of the
other borders. Before the repentant pirate could return with the local
justice of the peace, the Johnson brothers had dug up the treasure and
hidden it elsewhere in two parcels. Meanwhile winter tides had swept
the beach and by the time one of the brothers dug it up, he could only
find the larger of the two parcels. A fierce winter storm in 1839
finally exposed the remainder of the loot. A resident discovered the
coins lying on the beach, and when two other neighbors came along, they
couldn't keep silent. The news spread rapidly and by the next day,
hundreds of residents from Gravesend and nearby towns were at the beach
sifting the sand for coins.
- On the first Sunday in July 300 carriages rattled over Shell Road through
Dan Morell's toll gate. It was a record day.
- Two New Yorkers, Eddy and Hart, built a pavilion (circular wooden
platform covered by a tent) at the far westerly point of the beach.
A sidewheeler steamer began bringing visitors from the city to a small
pier there that jutted out into Gravesend Bay.
- Horse cars began excursions to the center of Coney Island during the
- Peter Tilyou and family moved to Coney Island in 1865 to establish
the Surf House, a hotel and restaurant which sold Bavarian Lager for
five cents and rented "Fancy Flannel Bathing Suits."
The first railroad, the Coney Island Railroad reached the island.
- Charles Feltman invented the hot dog, a marriage of the German frankfurter
with a roll.
- John Y. McKane got his first job as constable of Gravesend.
- McKane was elected one of the three commisioners of Gravesend and
personally leased the towns public lands. Within a year he doubled
the town's revenue to $1,527.50.
- Charles Feltman sub-leased a tiny plot of land near the beach. He served
hot dogs to 3,684 customers that summer.
- McKane diligence and greed increased the town's rental income of its
public lands to $9,000. McKane, as contractor, arranged to build
structures for the leassees.
- Mike Norton opened the Point Comfort Hotel (former summer home of
William Wheatley) by erecting a number of small shacks around the
main house. When Boss Tweed escaped his New York jailers, Norton hid
him out in one of his shacks until he escaped several months later on
a boat to Spain in 1876.
- William Vanderveer arrived at Coney Island and sublet two small lots to
begin a bathhouse business.
- Charles Feltman bought a 150 x 200 foot lot for $7500 and opened his Ocean
Pavilion. It proclaimed itself to be
the largest building on Coney Island with rooms for 20,000 guests, a
ballroom for 3000 dancers, and a piazza for 5000 onlookers.
- Andrew R. Culver built the Prospect Park & Coney Island Railroad to
carry passengers to West Brighton at 35 cents each. Its terminal
opened onto Culver Plaza near where the Iron Tower would be erected
two years later.
- Coney Island's first carosuel carved by Charles Looff, was built for
William Vanderveer who owned several several flourishing bathhouses.
It was located at Balmer's Bathing Pavilion, a three story hotel and two
story bathing pavilion at the foot of Ocean Parkway.
- Austin Corbin laid a railroad line to his Manhattan Beach Hotel.
- Ocean Parkway, seventy feet wide and flanked by two gravel roads each
twenty-five feet wide, was completed in 1876. It ran as a staright line
from Brooklyn's Prospect Park to the ocean.
- John Y McKane is elected supervisor of Gravensend, an office that the
gentry had always held.
- Paul Bauer builds the biggest hotel in West Brighton on a 12 acre lot near
- The Manhattan Beach Hotel was built on the far eastern shore of Coney
Island. Architect J. Pickering Putnam set its nearly 700 feet long
front with its covered verandas and acres of manicured lawns towards
the sea. It was considered the most elegant and fashionable hotel in
the United States when it opened on July 4, 1877. It featured 258 lavish
rooms, restaurants, ballrooms
and shops. Evening entertainment often included spectacular huge
fireworks displays staged by Henry Pain, which depicted scenic wonders,
famous legends and battles. The most exclusive and prominent clubs in
New York, the Union and the Union League used the hotel during the
summer and permanently rented many of the hotel's largest suites.
- The 300 foot high Iron Tower was brought from the Philadelphia
Cenntenial Exposition. It featured two steam elevators to transport
visitors to its top which offered splenid views of the island.
- A syndicate built their New York and Sea Beach Railroad that terminated at
their Sea Beach Palace. This enormous combination terminal, restaurant and
hotel was located on Surf Avenue several blocks west of Culver Plaza. It
boasted that it could accommodate 10,000 guests overnight and serve 15,000
diners at one sitting.
- William Eugeman builds the Brighton Beach Race Track which opens in
- Louis Stauch began his restaurant business by leasing Daniel Welch's saloon
for $700 / year. He had worked for the man for two years while he saved his