Ask Mr. Coney Island

Answers from the expert

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posted on Mar 28th, 2011
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
Could you tell me where the giant wooden elephant hotel was located? There is a painting by William Merrit Chase, entitled Landscape Near Coney Island, that depicts a couple of ladies in Victorian garb, picking berries along the seashore (see attacvhed). In the background, on a barrier beach across a narrow bay, is the elephant. I suspect the ladies are picking berries where the Belt Parkway is now, somewhere around Dreier Offerman Park. I’d like a more precise location for the hotel to confirm my hunch on where the scene is located or getting a better bearing. Thanks!
- Mike

Hello Mike,

No attachment came in with your email but I know the painting and have used it in my presentations. The view is looking east and the women are standing at Coney Hook at the border of Sea Gate (roughly where Coney Creek Park is located).

The bay behind them was later filled in to create Kaiser Park. The Elephant Hotel was located on the north side of Surf Avenue near 12th Street.

posted on Mar 28th, 2011
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
Where was this ice cream parlor located onthe boardwalk ? I cannot figure it out. Thanks!
- Coney Fan

Hello Coney Fan,

That building was on the Ward property at the corner of Jones Walk at the Boardwalk. It was demolished when the Boardwalk was moved inland in 1941. Here's an aerial view: Hope this helps. 

posted on Mar 18th, 2011
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I have some letters from a great aunt written in 1917 when she was working for the summer at Health House, on Surf and W. 23rd street. It seems to have been a place for mothers to send their children. She wrote of a measles quarantine, which was unexpected. Any idea of what this place was? Thanks!
- Susan

Hello Susan,

The facility was the Children's Aid Society. It was located in Coney Island from the 1870s until 1924. There were four other similar organizations. Mothers and their children, mostly from poor neighborhoods, were invited to stay in beachside bungalows or the Surf Avenue hospital to learn about child-rearing, health care, and good hygiene.

Men were not allowed to stay but could visit on weekends. Here is a picture of the facility.

posted on Jan 7th, 2011
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I just read your answer to an inquiry about a bungalow colony called Villanove Court. My family rented a bungalow in a place called Carlton Court in the summer of 1954. Do you have any info on that place?
- Chef Henry

Hello Chef Henry,

Carlton Court was located on West 35th Street between Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk. The resort was owned and operated by Agnes Stephenson and then sold in the 1930s to Herman Berman and Joe Feld of B&F Bungalows. They also operated the adjacent Sea Gate (Villa) Casino on West 36th. Carlton operated from around 1910 until 1966 when the property was sold to Max Berman who demolished the bungalows in 1972.

The furnished bungalows were rented for the whole season, the most expensive being the two story boardwalk structures that offered a view of the ocean. There was a central path that led to a "pavilion" by the Boardwalk that had handball courts and tables and chairs where people gathered to play cards or Mah-Jong. Sometimes B&F hired bands to play at the pavilion dances. Carlton tenants were mostly repeat seasonal customers who considered themselves one big Coney Island family!

posted on Dec 22nd, 2010
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I have a family photo that I have guessed is at Coney Island, but I can't seem to find any images online that show the landmarks in it or the right angle for me to identify it properly. Can you tell if it is at Coney? From the ages of my grandparents and the some of the children (my aunts & uncle) in it, my guess is that the photo is circa 1920 - 1922. (More likely the earlier year.) From what I have read, if it is Coney at that time then the roller coaster could possibly be the Giant Racer?
- John

Hello John,

The photograph was taken between West 8th Street and West 5th on the public beach at the former site of Dreamland. The turreted building on the right is the Sagamore Hotel, on the corner of West 8th and Surf Avenue. The coaster is the Giant Racer, and the two towers behind it belong to Luna's Aquadrome entrance at West 10th Street. The tent-like structure behind the tent in foreground houses the Dreamland Circus Sideshow and the billboard just behind the tent was located above the L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway. Nice photo!

posted on Oct 21st, 2010
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I am guessing that these pictures were taken around 1912. My question is are they pictures of Coney Island and if not do you have any idea of where they might have been taken. In the picture of the beach we can read "Petersen's Pavilion" and "Stauch's Baths". In the boardwalk picture you can read "Klondike Pioneer Placer Gold Mine". Thanks!
- Gary Long

Hello Gary,

One of your photos was taken on the Coney Island beach looking east. It was taken before 1911 because the large structure on the pier is the Dreamland Ballroom, which burned in 1911. The tower in the center is the top of Dreamland's Shoot-the-Chutes. Ward's boardwalk can be seen on the left, and behind the Stauch's sign is Petersen's, a bathhouse located behind Feltman's on Jones Walk. The beach is extremely narrow and was not expanded until the Boardwalk was built in 1923.

posted on Aug 28th, 2010
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
About 1946 my family visited Coney Island. My older brother and I made some records there. Both of us sang a song and it was broadcast over the loud speaker and recorded on records. The records have long since disappeared but I wonder if you might have any information about this recording booth? Thank you!
- Ann Marie

Hello Ann Marie,

"Voice-O-Graph" machines resembled phone booths and there were at least two dozen of them located in arcades all over Coney Island in the 1940s. The machines were manufactured by International Mutoscope. The company also made the Photomatic photo booths that printed black and white photos in a small metal frame. In the 1940s it would have cost 25 cents to record a record and a personalized label with your name on it was extra. You could sing a song or record a birthday message.

Your voice was recorded at 78 RPM, a technology that's hard to find today. The machines switched to 33 RPM in 1957 and some were still operating in Coney Island through the mid-1960s. Here is a picture of a record that was recorded at AmuseOMat arcade on Surf Avenue.

Would love to hear your recording! 

posted on Jul 15th, 2010
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I am writing to inquire: what do you know about Villanova Court, a bungalow colony at the end of Coney Island, right before Sea Gate begins? It would have opened in the 40's or 50's and I think it closed at the beginning of the 1970's. A nursing home or medical facility took its place. Any information, including the names of the Villanova Court owners and their history tied to the bungalow colony, would be greatly appreciated. I would love to forward any and all info and pictures to two of my elderly relatives, who remember the time and the place very fondly. Thank you very much.
- Andrea

Hello Andrea,

The rustic Villanova summer bungalow colony was located on West 37th Street between the Boardwalk and Surf Avenue. It opened around 1910 and was demolished in early 1970. Villanova Court was one of the dozens of popular resort colonies in the West End of Coney Island that flourished during the early-to-mid 20th century. Nearby were Sea Gate Villa and Jefferson Baths, two seasonal businesses that survived until the early 70s.

A 1950s advertisement for Villanova listed its amenities as: "an outdoor pavilion, television, hot and cold showers, steam room, handball court, washing machines, telephone service, and private entrances to the beach and Boardwalk."

Attached is a photograph of Villanova taken in the 1950s. 

posted on Jun 16th, 2010
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
Do you have photos of Washington baths?
- EG

Hello EG,

Here are some photos of Washington Baths during its heyday in the 1930s.

It was located between the Boardwalk and Surf Avenue at West 21st Street. The Washington Baths Annex (also known as the "Pink Palace") was a block away at West 22nd Street.

posted on Jun 16th, 2010
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I was wondering if you could confirm if that is indeed the wonder wheel in the upper left hand corner....if it is the wonder wheel then it must be close to brand new since this is a picture of my uncles and they were born in the 1920's or so. Also i am wondering if the construction to the right is the boardwalk....any idea where this could have been taken???? Thanks!
- Patty

Hello Patty,

Yes, that is the Wonder Wheel. The picture is looking north from the beach at Jones Walk next to Feltmans (the Feltmans powerhouse chimney is in the background.) Peterson's Bathhouse is on the right and Ward's Bathhouse is at left. The Wheel opened in 1920 so this photograph was taken when it was a new attraction.