Coney Island: 150 Years of Rides, Fires, Floods, the Rich, the Poor and Finally Robert Moses
Before the Civil War, Coney Island boasted a beach, a dozen small hotels with ramshackle bathhouses, some chowder stands and a few saloons. After the war, it was taken over by powerful individuals who made its 0.7 square miles a domain of the wealthy. By 1905, with the population of New York City at four million, the city’s amusement park builders designed an entertainment wonderland on the island that even the poor could enjoy, creating a “nickel empire,” where visitors paid five cents for the subway, five cents for a Nathan’s hot dog and five cents for a ride. In 1910, Coney Island saw 20 million visitors—more than Disneyland and Disney World combined could claim 70 years later, adjusted for population growth. Through the decades, the island has seen changes of fortune, floods and fires, cycles of decay and rehabilitation. Yet the ultimate power on the island was and is the government of the city of New York, which—for good or ill—has made Coney Island what it is today.
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20th century American amusement area amusement park architecture attractions August Austin Corbin bathhouses bathing became began boardwalk boats Bowery Brighton Beach Brighton Beach Hotel Brooklyn Daily Eagle building built carnival cars cents city’s Coney Island Railroad Coney’s constructed Corbin crowd Culver dance Dreamland Dundy elephant Engeman erected feet Feltman’s fire Fred Trump Frederic Thompson George Tilyou Gravesend Harper’s horse Ibid July land leased Luna Park Manhattan Beach ment Michael Immerso Moses’s Nickel Empire Norton’s Point Ocean Old Coney Island Oliver Pilat Onorato opened owners park’s passengers patrons People’s Peter Tilyou pier Playground popular Prospect Park race racetracks railway resort restaurant ride riders Robert Moses roller coaster sand scenic Sea Lion Park season shows sideshow steamboat Steeplechase Steeplechase Park summer Surf Avenue Tilyou tion tower town of Gravesend track trip Trump visitors West Brighton women World World’s Fair York