Ask Mr. Coney Island

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Do you have a question for Mr. Coney Island?  Email it to ask@coneyislandhistory.org.

posted on Jan 19th, 2010
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I have several vague memories of going to Coney Island in the late 1950s or early 1960s with my father. One is of a cowboy singer in a bar called the Atlantis. Another is of an animal nursery. And most vague is a boardwalk concession that had a number of soda vending machines. Do you have any information to flesh out these memories? Thanks.
- Ed Yutkowitz

Hello Ed,

You have a good memory.

Sodamat was located on the Boardwalk at West 15th Street and it burned down in 1973; Murray Zarret's Animal Nursery was located on Surf Avenue and West 5th Street (pictured) and then moved to Surf and Stillwell; the Atlantis is now Cha-Cha's nightclub on the Boardwalk at Stillwell. Here are some photos to jog your memory.

posted on Nov 8th, 2009
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I am trying to work out where on Coney Island the great James J Jeffries fought Bob Fitzsimmons, Tom Sharkey and James J Corbett between June 9 1899 and May 11 1900. I know they took place in the Coney Island Athletic Club, but where is that located now? I am a big fan of boxing, living in the United Kingdom. I am hoping to visit the USA to see some of the significant sites in the country. I am interested in visiting Coney Island because it is the first place a heavyweight championship fight took place in New York. My visit is a pilgrimage to the Jack Johnson vs James J Jeffries fight that took place in Reno Nevada on July 4 1910. I look forward to hearing from you.
- Glenn Wilson

Hi Glenn,

The Coney Island Athletic Club (also known as the Coney Island Sporting Club) opened in 1897 in the former Bauer's Casino bathhouse. The 10,000 seat barn-like building was located between Surf Avenue and the ocean at West 8th Street where the New York Aquarium parking lot is now located. The Jim Jeffries vs.Tom Sharkey heavyweight bout, fought at the club on November 3, 1899, was the first fight ever filmed.

posted on Oct 13th, 2009
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
In the early '30's my dad lived in Coney Island, my grandfather, Alessandro Barboni had a restaurant (no one can remember what is was called or where it was). We believe that he (my grandfather) may have had a partnership with Guffanti's. Was there ever a Guffanti's at Coney Island? If so, where was it located. Grandpa closed up shop and moved in around 1932. Thanks for your help.
- Liz

Hello Liz,

Here is a photograph of Guffanti's Inn at Coney Island and an earlier advertisement.

posted on Sep 27th, 2009
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I was born and raised on W 33rd Street and Surf Avenue. Growing up in the early 1970's there was a large brick house along the boardwalk, which was razed to make way for the Sea Bay Manor, the nursing home on 33rd Street. I recall the building being called the "Jefferson House" but don't know what it's origins were. I remember being about 4 years old and being inadvertently pelted by debris being tossed out of the windows by the wreckers who were clearing out the building before it was destroyed. PS: My family lived in building 1 of O'dwyer Gardens, first on the 13th floor, then the 8th floor. My mother still lives there. Thank you.
- Gerard

Hello Gerard,

The building was Jefferson Baths, a bathhouse and summer resort built around 1910. The establishment had rental lockers, a tree-lined courtyard, bungalows, summer apartments, and a bar on the boardwalk. The complex was demolished in 1970. It was one of Coney's "presidential" bathhouses: Lincoln Baths was on West 32nd; Roosevelt Baths was on West 30th; Washington Baths was on West 21st.

posted on Aug 19th, 2009
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
Hi I remember as a pre-teen in the early 70's a large yellow slide ride next to the parachute ride.  It was already closed when we as kids discovered it but found a hole in the fence and with a piece of rug slid down this slide all day long.  Would you have any pics of the slide with the parachute ride in it?  I also remember a piece of plywood being removed from the base of the parachute ride and going into the platform finding very old tickets which my younger brother doesn't believe we did.  Would you have any pics of the parachute ride during the early 70's?  I remember thick cables attached to the tower that might have been attached to keep it stable.  Thank you.
- Jeanett Russo

Hello Jeanett,

You remember correctly. Here's a photograph of the abandoned slide next to the Parachute Jump taken around 1971.

The cables were hanging loose from the top and swinging in the wind. It was easy to get into the parachute base through the open door, and, yes, there were piles of old tickets on the floor. There was also an old safe and some burned silk parachutes.

Hope this answers your question.

posted on May 4th, 2009
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I lived in Gravesend Brooklyn for many years.  I am 56, I spend lotta time in Coney Island as a kid, I have a lot of questions, but I'll just ask one now, about what year did they demolish the nortons point, trolley ramp? My grandfather used to take me to this little luncheonette on Stillwell Ave, right next to the theater, I seem to remember the ramp but maybe not.  Thanks!
- Coney Fan

Hello Coney Fan,

The Norton's Point trolley service ended in November of 1948 and was demolished soon after.

Pictured: trolley ramp over West 15th Street next door to Gargiulo's Restaurant.and on Stillwell Avenue next to the deli.

posted on May 4th, 2009
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
As a kid I would go to Coney Island in season and off with my parents.  I have a co-worker who is interested in Washington Baths because I told him my parents rented a locker for several summers in the early 60's.  We are unclear.  I told him that the entrance was on Surf Ave only a couple blocks from the train station.  He said it was past Raven Hall... I don't remember walking down that far to get to it.  Do you know what street it was on?  Thanks in advance for the answer.
- Kathy

Hello Kathy,

Washington Baths was on West 21st Street, between Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk, but there was also a Washington Baths Annex a block away on the Boardwalk at West 22nd Street. Both had salt water pools. The main Washington Baths was right next to Ravenhall and had a large entrance on the Boardwalk. There was a smaller Surf Avenue entrance in the middle of the block used mostly by season pass holders.

Pictured is the big Washington Baths pool on West 21st Street.

posted on Apr 10th, 2009
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I grew up in Coney and I remember there was a carousel not in the amusement district. It was located on the boardwalk about West 27th Street. The last thing that was there as I remember were handball courts. I want to see a picture and possibly know the name of that carousel. All I remember that it was in a tin shed (that is what I remember as a child) and that when you walked inside there was a concession stand on the left selling goodies etc.  Thank you.   PS: I was born in 1945 so the carousel I imagine was there when we use to go see the fireworks on Tuesday night. Also I very much miss Larry & Vinnies pizza. It was the best.
- Marilyn Bologna

Hello Marilyn,

The carousel was part of Weber's Baths on West 27th Street near the Half Moon Hotel. Few people remember that the amusement district stretched that far down the Boardwalk. It was known as the "Chafatino Carousel," carved by Illions, and named after the family that owned it when it was on Surf Avenue at West 5th Street before being moved to Weber's in 1932. It operated inside a beautiful glass pavilion until 1957 when it was relocated to Seaside Heights, New Jersey.

posted on Feb 26th, 2009
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
What do you know of this ride? It stood next to the Astrotower. It was a 16 passenger diesel hydraulic very powerful ride thad had several serious accidents, once a carload of riders broke free and was thrown into West 12 street next to the Cyclone. Eventually it was dismantled. Any ideas or pics? Thanks.
- Mike

Hello Mike, The Space Orbit was an independent ride in Astroland operated by Wally Roberts for one season in 1964. It closed soon after an unfortunate accident injured several riders.

posted on Feb 26th, 2009
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I saw them moving the old rocket ride in Astroland a few weeks ago. Can you tell me about the history of it? Was it a working ride at one time? What did it do?
- Saskia

Hello Saskia,

The Astroland Rocket Ship was one of the first amusement park "simulators." It debuted in 1962 at Astroland Park as one of the first of the "imaginary" space voyage simulators constructed during the Space Race. The Rocket showed simulator films of "rocket rides" while the chassis "rocked" its viewers to outer space. The Ride, which has 26 seats, lasted about three minutes, the length of the film. Originally built as the "Star Flyer," the Astroland Rocket operated until the early 70's. It sat atop the boardwalk hamburger/hotdog stand, Gregory and Paul's until just a few week ago when it became of of the early victims of Coney Island's redevelopment.

While the City and Thor Equities continue to negotiate over ownership of Coney Island, Astroland Park moved off the its property at the end of January. Owners Carol and Jerry Albert then donated the rocket to the City, which is storing it in a temporary location. It will eventually return to Coney Island as a centerpiece of a newly developed park.