Ask Mr. Coney Island

Answers from the expert

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

posted on Nov 23rd, 2008
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I lived in this building, which stretched the entire length of the block and was, at the time, the only apartment building in Coney Island with an elevator. I do not have any good photos of the building, however, and wonder who might? The Surf Avenue side had a pool hall-- Murrays, a luncheonette at the 29th street corner, a grocery store and a wholesale candy outlet. Thanks for your help.
- Martin Sage

Hello Martin,

The apartment building was divided in two: the Surf and Neptune. The Surf Apartments had an entrance on 28th Street and the Neptune Apartments entrance was on 29th Street. The building was constructed at the same time as the adjacent Half Moon Hotel in 1927. Weepy's pool hall was a famous fixture for many years, as was Jimmy's luncheonette/pizza joint on the 29th Street side. The building has been replaced by a nursing home.

posted on Nov 3rd, 2008
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I spent many childhood years in Coney Island between 1953 and 1960. Do you remember, or have any photos of, Tony's Rooming House on West 15th St.between Mermaid Ave. and Surf Ave.? Also, there was a rooming house, also on W. 15th St.,on the same side of the street, closer to Mermaid Ave. The address there was 2922 W. 15th St. For many years it was owned by Abe Fleminger and his family. Unfortunately, these buildings were demolished to make way for a large parking lot for Garguilio's Restaurant across the street. Anyhow, do you remember those two buildings, have any photos, or know any of the long-term residents of those rooming houses? I do recall that my mother's friends lived there -- Dave Altman, Tessie Dundee, as well as other dear friends. Any info or photos would be much appreciated. Awaiting your reply. Many thanks.
- Arlene

Hello Arlene,

Tony's Bright Spot was a beautiful but slightly seedy establishment in a building that dated back to the late 1800s. Tony Oleva operated it until his death, and then it was run by his "nephew." It had quite a reputation. The rooming house was an SRO that also was the last hotel in Coney that catered to tourists. It was painted in bright primary colors and decorated with plaster elves, swans, and whirligigs. There was an arbor and grape vines covering the roof and parking lot. At one time the elevated trolley from Norton's point went right over half the building.

Gargiulo's restaurant bought and demolished the building in the late 70s. We'll get back to you with the other information. Hope this helps.

posted on Nov 3rd, 2008
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I recall visiting Nathans in the 1960s and there being the most fantastic candy store right across the alley from Nathans on Stillwell Avenue.  There was a very old couple who ran the shop and they had the best carmel popcorn that I ever had in my life -- even until this day.  The store had giant colorful lolipops all around.  Do you have any history about this store?  Is it still standing?
- Bruce Baron

Hello Bruce,

You must be thinking of Williams Candy. At the time it was owned by Al Kirsch. The good news: it's still there! Come back and have a jelly apple!

posted on Nov 3rd, 2008
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I remember walking outside as a child and feeling hot ashes hitting me the day Luna Park burned down. Can you tell me the exact date and what caused the fire.
- Dolores

Hello Dolores,

Luna's devastating fire happened on August 12, 1944. It started in the park's scenic railway on West 12th Street, but the cause is unknown.

posted on Nov 3rd, 2008
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
There was a restaurant on the corner of West 16th Street and Surf Ave owned by a boxer in the fifties.  What was his name?  Thank you!
- Jimmy P

Hello Jimmy,

His name was Tony Pellone. He and his family had several other bars and restaurants in Coney including the Hollywood Bar in the Stillwell terminal and the Lido on the Boardwalk. "Tough Tony" was a top welterweight who fought against such champions as Kid Gavilan and Bob Montgomery. He died at Coney Island Hospital in 1996.

posted on Aug 24th, 2008
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
Here I go again. trying to reconcile my vague memories with reality. rode a ride I think was called the virginia reel located just down the block from the bobsled on stillwell avenue near the boardwalk. it had a high red brick wall behind it round tub-like cars that careened down from top to bottom on circular thin tracks. the cars also spun independently . the seats were bench like positioned against the car. we sat side by side around the inside of the car with our legs and knees touching each other. there was a metal pole with a wheel set on top of it which the riders held onto. . this wheel may have been the mechanism for spinning the car on the track. it was a rough ride help me remember. could it be the old luna park reel moved to this location or did it exist at all?
- Joan of South Carolina

Hello Joan,

No, you were not imagining things. The Virginia Reel was located on the Bowery at West 12th Street and operated there until the mid 1960s. Elmer Riehl invented it at Coney Island and installed the first one in Luna Park in 1908. It was named for his daughter, Virginia.

posted on Aug 15th, 2008
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
Did anyone every get stuck on the parachute jump?
- Christina Noll

Hello Christina,

Yes, people got stuck, but it was a rare occasion. The Jump was well-maintained. The mechanics would occasionally stop the ride on purpose as a publicity gimmick -- the screams of riders dangling in the air was guaranteed to draw a crowd. If a parachute became tangled it required a worker to "ride the hook" and lower himself to the jammed cable from the top of the tower to fix the problem. No one was ever killed or seriously injured on the Parachute Jump.

posted on Aug 15th, 2008
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
When I was in my teens during the early 50's I was a fanatic rider of the tornado roller coaster. I remember riding up the lift hill (which if I remember correctly faced toward the ocean) as I looked toward my left side and down into what looked like a narrow street there was a bath house where my girlfriends and I used to gawk at the customers going in and out and sunning themselves wrapped in towels and sometimes bare... would like to know something about the bath house when it closed or is it still there. or was it destroyed when the tornado burned.
- Lauren

Hello Lauren,

The bathhouse you saw was Cook's baths (formerly Cox's Baths) which operated until 1973. It burned several years before the Tornado was destroyed by fire.

posted on Jun 12th, 2008
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
What became of the swimming pool known as raven hall? I remember passing it on my way to the beach. Wasn't it a salt water pool with access to the beach from the swimming pool through a gate near the boardwalk? I remember dancing under the bordwalk at Bay 12 . What a great time back in the early 50's.
- Joan

Hello Joan,

Yes, Ravenhall was a wonderful place that occupied the entire block at West 19th Street. The salt water pool was the largest in Coney Island. There was also a smaller pool next to the Boardwalk entrance, as well as a gym, handball courts, steam rooms, and a small private beach. Ravenhall opened in 1867 as a hotel and over the next century grew into a large resort that was destroyed by fire in 1963, a year before Steeplechase Park closed. The Abe Stark ice rink and parking lot occupies the site today.

posted on Mar 13th, 2008
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
Could you post a map(s) that superimposes where Luna Park, Dreamland and Steeplechase Park were related to today's Coney Island structures? I'd love to see some maps showing where various Coney icons were relative to today, such as the main tower in Dreamland, etc.
- Rick Dauer

Hello Rick,

Here's a map from the book, "Coney Island: Lost and Found" that shows the location of the big parks. The Dreamland Tower was located on the site of the Boardwalk ramp to the Aquarium. Dreamland stretched from Surf Avenue to approximately halfway across the present beach; There was no boardwalk when Dreamland was in business.

The Iron Tower, built in 1878, was located adjacent to the site of the new Aquatic Animal Health Center. Many parts of old Dreamland still exist below grade. When the site was excavated a few years ago, the entire foundation of the Iron Tower was revealed, dismantled and carted off. The tower stood on a cribbing of brick and massive pine timbers which, when exposed, were still filled with sap and looked newly cut, perfectly preserved by salt water. The Coney Island History Project is locating and documenting many of these sites for the city, hoping to preserve historical artifacts when new development begins. Drop by our exhibit center this summer and you'll find a more detailed map on display. We're under the Cyclone.