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 Civil War.


  • 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 Culver Plaza.


  • 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.


  • Brighton Beach Hotel (Hotel Brighton) opens. This vast wooden hotel with accomodations for nearly 5000, could also feed 20,000 people per day. It was frequented by the upper middle class rather than the wealthy because its location in W. Brighton was too close to Coney Island's seedier section.

    William Engeman builds the Iron Pier and Brighton Beach Bathing Pavilion.

    Feltman builds a 100 foot long Iron Pier with space for 1200 bath lockers and various game and food stands.


  • 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 June.

  • 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 money.