Coney Island - Timeline
The material is copyrighted © 1997 by Jeffrey Stanton.
- The subway's extension to Coney Island and its nickel fare brought
millions of visitors to New York City's nearest beach.
- The Wonder Wheel, one of Coney Island's landmark attractions, was installed
along the Boardwalk near W. 8th. Its 130 foot diameter wheel carried 150
people in 24 cars. While 8 cars were stationary, 16 cars slid from the inner
wheel to the outer wheel and back while it turned.
- Police inspector Byron T. Sackett ordered three nude plaster figures, used
to advertise a new attraction on the Bowery called the "Love Nest," removed
after noticing the large crowds that it had attracted. While it was a copy
of a well known sculpture called the "Fallen Angel," two standing figures
looking down at a third figure reclining between them, his complaint was
tinting them with flesh tones made them too realistic.
- The first section of Coney Island's boardwalk, stretching for half the
length of the resort, opened. Its wooden planked boardwalk was 80 feet
wide and cost $3,000,000. To increase the space on the beach an extra
2,500,000 square feet, groins were extended into the sea and sand was
sluiced (pumped) in from inland areas. Unfortunately the sand was tan
rather than white, but it gave visitors to the beach plenty of free
access. New white colored sand was eventually placed atop the old tan
sand in 1941.
- Six passengers were injured on the Oriental Scenic Railroad on Surf Avenue
on June 21st when a trestle, 10 feet off the ground gave way.
- After the summer season ended, Surf Avenue, the Bowery and several
alleys near the Bowery leading to the Boardwalk were widened for
better fire fighting access. 175 buildings and attractions including
the Ben Hur Race, Rocky Road to Dublin (both coasters), Stauch's
Restaurant and Henderson's Dance Hall were razed to make room for the
improvement. By May 1924 as many businesses rebuilt, Coney Island had
a completely different look.
- Coney Island's first beauty contest was held during the Democratic
National Convention in Manhattan. 48 contestants from each of the
- The Brighton Beach Hotel was razed.
- Coney Island businessmen instituted an annual beauty pageant. Fifty
girls, most of them showgirls and the rest models, competed. That
Sunday 700,000 spectators jammed the subways and trolleys to reach
the Boardwalk where the contest was held at Child's boardwalk
restaurant. Hope Thompson won as the prettiest girl and received a
$100 necklace of Coney Island pearls. Dora Empey won a loving cup as
the neatest girl, and Peggy Shannon was awarded third prize and the
title of Miss Coney Island.
- The Bobs / Tornado, a thrilling twister roller coaster designed by
Prior & Church was built on a very narrow lot at Henderson's Walk
and the Bowery. The structure included a 100 foot high ornate jeweled
tower and numerous rides beneath it in what was called the Amusement
Department Store. This included an Illions carousel, wax show, Bug
House, shooting gallery and a bathhouse for 500 bathers.
- Additional mile of Boardwalk extended to Brighton Beach.
- Twelve people hurt in a crash on the Thunderbolt roller coaster, when failing
to make a hill, rolled back down and was struck by the next train.
- The 85 feet high Cyclone, Coney Island's most famous roller coaster opened on
June 26, 1927. It cost Jack and Irving Rosenthal $175,000 to build. It was a
fast twister coaster set in a figure 8 design, and a true thrilling ride.
- Steamboat service to Steeplechase Pier suspended in September.
- Eden Wax Musee and two other buildings burn in a March 10th fire.
- Fire swept four blocks of the Boardwalk and three square blocks of nearby
property between 21st & 24th Streets on July 13th. It started in a pile of
rubbish under the boardwalk and could have been extinished easily if those who
first saw it had turned in an alarm. Instead 35 engine companies had to fight
the blaze for six hours in 40 MPH winds before gaining control. Damages were
$2,000,000 as numerous bathhouses and apartment buildings burned. 1000 people
were homeless. An estimated 2000 people, who had stored their clothes and
valuables, lost them when the bath houses burned. 250 men were employed to
guard the ruins to prevent looting. The 1000 feet of burned
Boardwalk was restored by mid-August.
- Another fire on November 13, 1932 burned six two-story buildings at the
south-east corner of Surf Avenue and Stillwell. Damage was $100,000.
- Luna park goes bankrupt in May, but is reopened in June under
- On August 1st 57 bathers were injured when a section of the west balcony at
Steeplechase's pool collapsed. After a fight between two men broke out at
the poolside below, those in the balcony crowded around the railing several
deep for a better view. The posts holding up the balcony gave way and more
than 80 spectators plunged to the pool apron 17 feet below.
- Luna Park is out of bankrupcy but its owner, Barron Collier, fails to
lease the park to operators for the season. He finally decides to open
half the park and its rides in July and manage it himself.
- Luna Park is sold to new owners who refurbish it and add new
- The New York City Health Department began an intensive campaign to
end food poisoning at the country's busiest beach. Every Coney Island
food and drink outlet got a rigid inspection at least twice during
- Lawrence Russo, a high school student riding the Mile Sky Chaser at
Luna Park was pitched out of the car and killed. Numerous people
heard the boy's shrieks as he fell. Several started up along the
tracks to where he lay only ten feet above ground, but a following
train ground him to death before he could be rescued. Another death
that season on another coaster prompted an investigation of roller
- Coney Island experiences the worst tourist season ever. Thirteen weekends
were rained out.
- Robert Moses became Parks Commissioner, and the beach and boardwalk
were placed under his jurisdiction. He believed, "No one was
interested in a mechanical gadget resort like Coney Island."
- The Parks Commissioner passed an ordinance that banned ballyhoo and
outside lecturers. This particularly affected the side-show freak
shows that used ballyhoo to attract customers. When side-show owners
defied the ordinance, Rosen (Coney Side Show), Wagner (World Circus
Side Show) and Sidell (Palace of Wonders Freak Show) were dragged
- The American Museum of Public Recreation opened its doors at the old
Balmer's Bath House building on Surf Avenue. It was created by ride
builder William Mangels to show the history of amusement devices.
Exhibits included the evolution of the bicycle, the original roller
coaster car from L.A. Thompson's scenic railway, and a wooden lion
carved by Dentzel in Germany. Attendance was minimal and the museum
closed after the 1940 season.
- Steeplechase fire on Sept 14, 1939 destroyed a Flying Turns tobaggan
coaster, and several rides including the outside section of the Steeplechase
Horse track. 50,000 visitors watched the fire from the beach.