Ask Mr. Coney Island

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posted on Mar 7th, 2012
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
You have been so helpful to so many people and I appreciate it very much. Could you please give me the name of this building & what it was used for. Thanks!
- Jeanett

Hello Jeanett,

That structure, with its nautical themed terra cotta, is the former Childs Restaurant Building, built in 1924. There were once over 90 Childs establishments in NYC. The building is an official NYC landmark and will someday be restored as a restaurant and catering hall by Taconic Investment Properties, the company that has a 99-year lease on the property.

posted on Mar 7th, 2012
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
My Great grand uncle was Lazar Hann. According to family history, he and his wife, Fannie, owned and operated a restaurant at Coney Island around 1910-1920. We were told that it was the first Romanian restaurant at that location. Can you confirm this? Or, provide the name of the cafe ? Thanks so much for your help.
- D. Preston

Hello Preston,

There were several Romanian restaurants on Surf Avenue but the most popular was Carmen Sylva's, an older establishment known for its "steaks and chops" that remained open for business until the 1960s. Does this sound like their restaurant?

posted on Feb 14th, 2012
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I hope you can help. My mother died recently and in cleaning out the house where she lived i came across a photo album with many pics of the 1920's and 30's of my grandmother and grandfather on my fathers side. There were many pics showing scenes on a beach with what looks like a beach club and some kind of elevated wood structure in the background. This structure does not look like a boardwalk. One pic, which i attached, shows my grandfather with children in front of him and in the upper left a building which i can only make out a partial name ...... *hman Baths and Restaurant. I believe this bath is either Coney Island, or somewhere in Brighton or Manhattan Beach, and if you can identify it, you would help in putting together a little piece of family history for us. Thanks so much in advance!
- Joseph Tague

Hello Joseph,

The date of this photo is circa 1921-22 and the building in the background is Bushman Baths, located at West 15th and the Boardwalk (which is under construction in the photo, completed in 1923.) Bushman Baths burned in 1973. Note the spelling change in the name (they dropped the "c" somewhere along the way.)

Hope this helps!

Dear Mr. Coney Island...
A question concerning Paul's Daughter building: Was it built by Feltman's when Boardwalk straightened in 1939? What was it built as?
- Coney Fan

Hello Coney Fan,

The Paul's Daughter building on the Boardwalk at West 10th Street was built by Feltmans shortly after the Boardwalk was moved. The new fireproof, streamlined, "Art Moderne-style" building replaced the ornate wooden Feltmans Boardwalk Restaurant that was erected in 1923 on the site of the old Petersen's Hotel which had occupied Feltmans oceanfront property since the 1880s.

 

posted on Dec 12th, 2011
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
We lived in Coney Island from the 1930's to the 1970's. Early on, I seem to remember my mother and aunts and friends and people from all over, all ages, all walks of life, gathering in the "Pavilion" on the boardwalk, especially on the summer Tuesday fireworks night to talk, perhaps gossip, but especially to sing. Most of the songs were Yiddish, with beautiful longing melodies which I can still remember.

In speaking of this with some people in my family, they say I remember it through "rose colored glasses". Did it exist? Can you validate when and where. Was it as I remember as a young boy?
- David Levine

Hello David,

Your memory is correct. The Boardwalk originally had four Mediterranean style pavilions located at West 35th St, West 29th, West 24th, and West 12th Streets.The pavilions at the West End were popular gathering places on summer evenings. Residents of the Hebrew Home for the Aged, located in the old Half Moon Hotel, would sing songs and tell stories in the pavilion at West 29th Street. The pavilions suffered arson fires and were demolished in the 1970s. Here are photographs of the pavilions in the 1920s and shortly before demolition.​

Dear Mr. Coney Island...
My name is Debra. I grew up in Coney Island I'm hoping you have some pictures of the Hubba Hubba Restaurant. It was located on Mermaid Avenue. Maybe a photo of the Mermaid Theater, also located on Mermaid Avenue. Finally, a photo of the Yeshiva Sheri Zedek. The Yeshiva was located on Mermaid Avenue; off the corner of 23 rd street. I lived at 2228 Mermaid Avenue. I was 8 years in old 1965. My father died that year. We moved out of Coney Island a year later. We lost all our photos when we moved. So many wonderful memories but no photos. I would appreciate any photos.
- Debra Daien Kassiotis

Hello Debra,

Sorry to hear of your loss. Here are some photographs from the past that will refresh your memory: The Mermaid Theater marquee and owners Sam and Estelle Horwitz posing in front; the Huba, and the Yeshiva.

posted on Jul 25th, 2011
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
Can you please tell me who ran the Magic Carpet Ride in Coney Island. Also where did the fat laughing lady Minnie Ha Ha come from. Where was she made. Are there some oictures of her that I can purchase? What about her voice? I am also interested in pictures of the dragons cave and the donkey game next to the Magic Carpet Ride. What information can you give me on the man that painted the inside of Playland. I remember the beautiful pictures painted on the walls as well as all over.
- Sal

Hello Sal,

Here's a photo of the Magic Carpet Fun House on the Bowery at West 15th Street. The attraction was run by Edie and Seymour Maxim who also operated the Donkey Game next door. The last version of the robotic laughing lady was actually a German-made laughing male figure in drag. The Coney Island History Project is planning an exhibition of work by the artist who painted the Playland murals. Keep checking our web site for more information.

posted on Jul 19th, 2011
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I lived in Coney Island from 1930's to 1950's. As a boy I often swam in Gravesend bay where Sea Gate began. There was an abandoned ferry boat stuck in the sand alongside what was left of a pier. Do you know anything about it or some pictures of it? Boy do I have memories of the garbage dump at the end of Sea Gate where they used to burn the garbage. I now live in the San Diego, California area with my family.
- David Moses

Hello David,

The 123-foot ferryboat was named the Sylph and her scant remains are sometimes revealed when the beach at West 37th Street becomes eroded after storms. A few weathered pilings from the pier also can be seen and they mark the boat's location just to the west of the pier.

The ferry made scheduled commuter runs from Sea Gate to Manhattan until around 1950 when the service ended and the ferryboat was abandoned at the pier.

The Sylph was commissioned in 1898 as a naval patrol boat and also served briefly as the presidential yacht in the 1920s before being sold in 1929 for use as a party fishing boat out of Sheepshead Bay. The Sea Gate run began in 1939.

The boat was a fixture of my childhood and I remember playing on the wreck in the early 1960s, before a series of fires and storms leveled it to the waterline and it was buried beneath the beach. Here is a photo of the boat taken circa 1938 and one of the ruins at the pier taken in 1950 by Phil Horn.

posted on May 12th, 2011
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I used to stay part of the summer with my aunt in Greenpoint. One day she gave me a choice of going to the movies or going to Coney Island. Although I loved Coney Island, I hated the train ride so I chose the movies. The next day, she told me that it was good that I chose the movies because somebody shot-up Coney Island and nine people died. This would have been 1960 or so. Did this shooting really happen? I've googled it with no results. Thank you!
- Elaine

Hello Elaine,

The shooting took place in 1962. Two policemen died and six others were shot. It was a turning point for Coney's reputation. I remember it well. The incident is mentioned in the book: Coney Island Lost and Found. Here is a partial clipping:

posted on May 12th, 2011
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
Did female riders on the Steeplechase horses ride sidesaddle or astride during the early years of the ride?
- J. Bowers

Hello Mr. Bowers,

The women rode sidesaddle! Here's a victorian view of fun-loving female equestrians.