Do you have a question for Mr. Coney Island? Email it to ask@coneyislandhistory.org.
April 28th, 2013
silvers card

Dear Mr. Coney,

I would like to know if you have any information about the Silver Baths in Coney Island. It would of been around give or take 1920. I don’t know the exact name maybe it was Silver Salt baths.
If you have any information i would love to hear from you.
I do know it was visited by a big Jewish population. Looking forward to hear from you.

— Helene Ayala

silvers.

Hello Helene,

Silvers Baths was Coney’s fanciest bathhouse and was located on West 23rd Street at the Boardwalk from 1914 until 1968. The original complex burned in the great fire of 1932 and was replace with an ornate buff-brick building with a theater-style marquee that advertised “Russian Turkish Hot Salt Water Baths” and a “Vita Glass Solarium.” The Solarium, on the Boardwalk side of the building, was a popular venue for sunbathing. Silvers had swimming pools, steam rooms, restaurants, dormitories for overnight stays, and masseurs. The baths had a jitney that would pick up customers at the Stillwell Subway Terminal and deliver them to the front door. Silvers was operated by John Bonsignore in its final years. The clientele was mostly of Eastern European descent.

February 22nd, 2013

reisenwebers casino
Reisenweber’s circa 1914.

Publix baths.2
Publix Baths, 1920s.

club 28.c2
Club 28 circa 1965.

What can you tell me about club 28 on ocean parkway and sea breeze ave. i believe there was a fire in 1980 but there must be a colorful past.
Thanks, Larry Hirsch

Hello Larry,
Club 28 was located in the old Reisenweber’s Casino, an elegant, tile-roofed restaurant, ballroom, and nightclub that catered to the well-heeled racing crowd patronizing the adjacent Brighton Beach Race Track. Reisenweber’s was built around 1900, next door to the Brighton Theater, part of a refined, upscale alternative to Coney Island’s noisy midway. The structure’s top floor resembled the deck of an ocean liner and provided a sweeping view of the beach and ocean. An early advertisement promised that this upper deck offered “All the Joys of a Sail, Without the Motion!” Another ad promoted a “country style frog dinner for $2.00 as well as “dancing in the Wisteria Ballroom, a splendid orchestra, and fascinating surroundings cooled by ocean breezes.”

The Casino closed during prohibition and soon reopened as Publix Baths. After the bathhouse closed in the early 1950s, Club 28 opened as a bingo parlor and event hall, also known as “The Terrace.” The building was demolished after a fire around 1980, and was replaced by a high-rise apartment building.

January 9th, 2013

Hello Mr. Coney
I was wondering where the were located? I had done some research & have been finding conflicting information on the internet stating that both attractions were located at what is now KeySpan Park on Surf Ave & W.17th Street. I then found a map from 1906 and it looks like the Johnstown Flood was located there and the Galveston Flood was located somewhere in the vicinity of Surf Ave & W.10th Street. If you have any information on this, it would be appreciated.

Thank you,
Scott Lothrop


Hello Scott,

The Johnstown Flood (also known as The Deluge) was located on the North side of Surf Avenue on the corner of West 17th Street, later the site of the RKO Tilyou Theater. The Galveston Flood exhibit was on the South side of Surf Avenue at West 5th Street, between Dreamland and Chamber’s Drug Store.


Johnstown Flood



Galveston Flood

January 9th, 2013

Hello Mr. Coney
When I was small there was a storefront that had a placard in the window of an article about LIDA MEDINA, the world’s youngest Mom and a lifesize display of Monkey’s playing poker. Was this the wax museum? where was this located and what happened to the Monkey’s?

thanks
Meryl V


Hello Meryl,

You are correct. The poker-playing monkeys were located in a window display at the Bowery entrance to Lillie Santangelo’s World in Wax which operated in Coney Island from the 1920s until 1984. The museum also had an entire exhibit featuring Lina Medina, the world’s youngest mother, a Peruvian girl who gave birth at the age of five.

The display of animated monkeys (they were actually chimpanzees) was called “Cheating Cheaters,”because all the simian players had extra cards hidden up their sleeves and under the table and were obviously cheating! After the waxworks closed, the displays were auctioned off and now reside in private collections.

Lillie Santangelo's World in Wax - Wax Monkies

December 10th, 2012

Hello Mr. Coney,
I was born in 1935, and grew up in Coney Island.  I worked at the penny arcades and rides during school vacations, and fished from the jetties all along Coney Island beach.  Played ball in Kaiser Park, named for Dr. Leon S. Kaiser who I knew personally…..he was principal of Mark Twain Junior High School when I attended.  Went to the movies at the Tilyou theater, Loews Coney Island, the Surf Theater…and yes, even the Mermaid Theater.

I could go on and on, but the reason I’m writing is because I have a question.  Why is there no West 34th Street in Coney Island

Thanks,
Chuck Leigh


Hello Chuck,
Coney’s mysterious missing streets are a puzzle that’s mystified anyone who’s lived in Coney Island. Why are 18th Street, 26th Street, and 34th Street missing? I’ve researched this over the years and can give my theories.

When a new street grid for Gravesend was drawn up in early 1880 the existing roads and streets were plotted southward across the creek and into the West End of Coney Island, which at the time consisted of sand dunes and a few ramshackle hotels along the shoreline. Gravesend’s ancient roads and streets did not follow a true grid in the Manhattan sense, yet the newer streets were plotted as straight blocks running north/south. If an older street that ran at an angle that did not fit the new grid it was eliminated from the West End plan. As you can see from the maps, 18th Street followed an odd angle as it crossed Coney Island Creek so it was eliminated from the map.

West 18th st, copyright Charles Denson Archive

The other missing streets have something in common. They were both early subdivisions made in 1878 when Coney Island’s “common lands” were illegally divided and sold off by John McKane, the felonious supervisor of the Town of Gravesend. The 1878 map shows unusual property lines drawn east of 25th and 33rd streets and these imaginary lines coincide with the first subdivisions of the lands in the West End. The “34th Street” subdivision, from the Ocean to the Bay, was owned by Thomas Furgueson. The “26th Street” plot was owned by Charles Woolsey. Both men were cronies of John McKane. These imaginary lines correspond to the right-of-way for both missing streets and political favors may have something to do with why these two streets were never mapped.

West 34th, copyright Charles Denson Archive


Hello Mr. Coney,

I’ve been doing some family history research, and found some relatives who lived at 2828 Warehouse Avenue (in 1910). When was Warehouse Avenue renamed West 22nd Street? Was there a reason this street was named Warehouse Ave?

Thanks,
Gary Marcus


Hello Gary,
Warehouse Avenue was a shorefront road in Bath Beach that curved along Gravesend Bay to Coney Island Creek. The piers on the bay had warehouses for the fishing fleet that operated from that location. When Coney was subdivided, Warehouse Avenue was extended into Coney Island along the bed of what became West 22nd Street. The Warehouse Avenue name was used on West 22nd until around 1929. The Belt Parkway replaced Warehouse Avenue on the Bay in 1940.

Warehouse Ave, copyright Charles Denson Archive

October 2nd, 2012

Dear Mr. Coney Island,
I am a distant relative of M.C. Illions and was wondering where his original workshop was located. None of the relatives (including my father who was there) seem to remember.
Thanks.
Susan Illions Levine


Hello Susan,
The last Illions carousel factory was located in a wood frame building at 2836 West 8th Street near Surf Avenue, across from the old fire station and up the block from the Mangels factory. The entire block was razed in the late 1950s and is now occupied by the Luna Park Houses housing project.


Illions Logo

Illions Carousels

September 13th, 2012

Dear Mr. Coney,

I have a picture of my husband’s grandparents taken when they were “courting” sometime between 1909 – 1911. The post card-photo was taken at Dream Studio in Coney Island. Is there anything you can tell me about the studio or proprietor: H. Tarr? They are in a car. she is behind the wheel on the right side of the auto, both are wearing hats) hers is a large flowery one, his is a straw hat and there appears to be a “fake” white dog on the hood of the “car”. Anything you can tell me about the studio. photographer or picture would be appreciated. I can forward a copy if that would help. Thank you.

Cathy Sperling



Hello Cathy,
Mr. Tarr operated a souvenir photo postcard business called the Dream Studio on Surf Avenue at West 6th Street below the Pike’s Peak Roller Coaster. The studio had numerous full size props including an early automobile and a Wright Brothers style airplane. We have many of his images in our archive and the little white shaggy dog is a constant in these photos. Many of the studios had silly toy props that were used to loosen up the subjects as their photo was taken. The Dream Studio was destroyed in the 1911 Dreamland fire but reopened shortly after with a new painted backdrop that depicted the burned out ruins of the park. The enclosed photo shows the Dream Studio below the Pike’s Peak Railway (circled). The entrance to Dreamland is at right and the Iron Tower is behind Pike’s. And here’s another photo of the little white dog!

August 15th, 2012

Hello,
I grew up in Coney island…and although I was little I remember being terrified by one of the side show windows that had a giant elephant stepping on a little Indian boy… do you have any info on what that place was?
Thanks, Candice k


The bizarre attraction you remember was the Kaufman family’s Torture Chamber exhibit in the Lido Hotel on Surf Avenue at West 12th Street. A visit to the chamber was sure to cause nightmares!


Kaufman Torture Chamber Copyright Abe Feinstein

June 21st, 2012

I have read and enjoyed your column of questions, answers & pictures.
Please tell me if, during the renovation of the Parachute Jump, it was shortened.
I seem to think during the mid 1950s that it looked taller.

Felicia



Believe it or not, you are not the first to ask this question. The “shorter tower” has become something of an urban legend. The reconstruction was carefully documented and no one, including the engineers, construction workers, Landmarks Preservation Commission, Parks Department, or EDC gave any indication that the tower was altered in any way that reduced its height. Compare the two images in the accompanying photo. The 1994 image matches the current image and number of levels.

There are many other myths surrounding the Jump and two are worth mentioning:

1. Despite the numerous stories of made-up mayhem concerning the jump, no one was ever killed or seriously injured while riding it. The ride did not close because of safety issues.

2. The most annoying myth is the one caused by sloppy research from the Landmarks Commision. Although the Parachute Jump closed for good in September 1964 and never operated again, the Landmarks designation report claims that the ride operated until 1968. The report erroneously claims that Coney amusement maven Norman Kaufman operated it after Steeplechase closed. Mr. Kaufman still gets a good laugh over this error. Make no mistake about this: the Landmarks Commission has the wrong date and the jump never operated after 1964.

We can be grateful, however, that the tower gained landmark status and hope that someday the Parachute Jump will operate once again!


A comparison of the parachute pre and post renovation.

June 15th, 2012

My parents who were born in 1911 grew up in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn and spent a lot of summer days at Coney Island. I just found a great photo album of my mother’s and am curious about a few pictures. I am not sure, but am thinking they are all taken at Coney Island. I am wondering where they were taken, esp. img 136 which is of my uncle in front of what looked like bath cabins with a #44 on the top. The photo that is identified as img065 indicates that one is taken near “Ocean Tide Baths.” Is there any info you could provide about those particular baths?

THANK YOU so much for what you do! I greatly appreciate being able to ask you these questions as part of my ongoing genealogy search.

Anne Merritt

Anne Merritt 1  Anne Merritt 2

Hello Anne,

Most of your photos were taken prior to 1920 at Heney and McCotters Ocean Tide Baths, located at West 35th Street and Surf Avenue at the West End of Coney Island. Ocean Tide had a private boardwalk and was one of the bathhouse bungalow colonies that sprang up along the beach in the late 1890s. Next door was Jefferson Baths, Sea Gate Villa, and Carlton Court. Some of these businesses operated into the 1970s. They were summer bungalows, rented for the season, but also had lockers for beach-goers that could be rented on a daily basis. The area around 35th Street was heavily Irish and had a number of great bars and restaurants.

I’ll post more info later.
I’m including a 1918 photo of Ocean Tide.
Hope this helps.

ocean_tide_baths

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