There was much to be thankful for in Coney Island during 2013: The B&B Carousell returned, Steeplechase Plaza opened, the storm-damaged pier was rebuilt, and the Parachute Jump was given a new lighting scheme.

But the year also saw the demise of several historic structures. The Astrotower demolition received the most publicity as the tower was cut to pieces amid a cloud of mass hysteria. Nearly the entire amusement zone was closed down on the Fourth of July as the swaying tower met its demise. The demolition was unnecessary and left a huge hole in Coney’s skyline. The other structures we lost received little attention.

West Eighth Street bore the brunt of the demolition. Until the 1960s West Eighth was a center of an amusement manufacturing, and until recently you could still see remnants of its industrial past. Now those remnants are being slowly erased.

 

Eye Candy

First to disappear were the beautiful mosaic murals on the façade of the old Bonomo candy factory at the Neptune Avenue end of the street. The colorful triptych dated to the 1940s, and each stylized panel illustrated the story of candy manufacturing: raw materials, processing, and delicious finished products.

When scaffolding went up around the building, I asked the workers what was happening. They claimed they were “cleaning the front.” A week later, the enormous murals were gone. The murals were located next door to the old William F. Mangels amusement factory, which now houses the Department of Motor Vehicles. We had tried for years without success to document the history of the murals, but the building’s owners were not helpful, and the artist was never identified.

bonomo8_2.RT8 bonomo.lab_5507 bonomo.2.5508
The Bonomo Murals

 

The Castle

creek keyspan.gas building.2.2121

The KeySpan Building

Farther up the block, on Coney Island Creek, the sprawling brick headquarters of the old Brooklyn Union Gas Company was unceremoniously reduced to rubble this past fall as the site was cleared for a public storage facility. The 85-year-old Tudor revival building was an architectural gem, and there was nothing else like it in Coney Island. We will miss the decorative Flemish brickwork, copper-lined gable dormers, multicolored slate roof, buttresses, huge bay windows, tall chimneys, and massive wood front doors. The building’s fixtures and decorative elements were scavenged and carted off to a Manhattan antique store.

 

Coney’s High Line

At the Surf Avenue end of West Eighth Street, the half-century-old steel arch pedestrian overpass known as the “Shark Bridge” was demolished after years of civic neglect. The bridge, spanning Surf Avenue, was built in 1956 to connect the West Eighth Street elevated station to the Aquarium and Boardwalk. Beach-goers, especially the elderly and families with children, used it to avoid the dangerous traffic on Surf Avenue. The bridge was controversial when Robert Moses erected it as an entrance to the Aquarium because some felt that its purpose was to bypass Coney’s attractions. There are no plans to replace the bridge, and visitors will now have to fight traffic to get to the beach.

shark bridge demo_.2.6927 shark bridge_sign.6914
The Shark Bridge: Coney’s High Line No more easy access

 

The Carolina Building

creek keyspan.gas building.2.2121

Last fall, the 19th-century building on Mermaid Avenue that once housed Carolina Restaurant was bulldozed, to be replaced an apartment house. The Carolina closed a decade ago, and the building recently housed a Chinese restaurant that never reopened after suffering damage from Hurricane Sandy.

The surrounding area was once the center of an Italian-American community that boasted numerous Italian restaurants. Gargiulo’s is the last one standing.

Coincidentally, an old billboard advertising the Carolina, located behind a gas station on Neptune Avenue and West 17th Street, was removed earlier in the year, also to make way for an apartment building.

3 Responses to “Lost Coney Island by Charles Denson”
  1. Caroline Waloski Says:

    I’m heart broken…especially about the Bonomo murals. Could it be they were removed and not destroyed?

  2. Bruce Says:

    I heard the sound of chisel meeting tile. I have a photo of one mosaic partially gone. They are now in a landfill somewhere. So sad.

  3. Duane Says:

    I grew up in Coney Island and lived there until 1980…
    These changes are sickening…I remember being fascinated by the Bonomo murals as a kid because they were so unusual (abstract….)…
    There was NO reason to remove these murals….WHY???
    The Brooklyn Union Gas “Castle” really was an architectural beauty and you couldn’t help but stare at the majesty of that beautiful structure when driving by…
    Replaced by a GRUESOME steel box storage facility??? How sickening….
    So many low class foreign interlopers have been crammed in here….They have NO affinity for the history or beauty of anything in Amerika…They are destroying our history because it’s not theirs…
    I couldn’t deface those priceless Bonomo mosaics if someone paid me a milllion dollars…
    Who really cares about the unsightly (ironically soviet looking) utilitarian”Shark Bridge”…But the other losses here are heart wrenching…
    The 1940′s looking quaint Carolina Restaurant was always beautiful to look at….
    I remember seeing the line waiting for a table out the door on Friday and Saturday nights in the 70′s….
    Does ANYONE remember Stella’s Italian Restaurant a few blocks away? (with the green wooden storm door at the entrance…?…In the early 70′s as a kid we walked out of there when my younger sister took her shoe off and started chasing the flies away….)
    I now live in Bay Ridge….The demolition of GORGEOUS, century old Green limestone Lutheran church on 4th Ave (and Ovington ave) to make way for ANOTHER public school was an even bigger travesty that what you showed here….

Leave a Reply

© Coney Island History Project | Contact Us | Visit Us on Flickr

NOTE: All material on the CIHP web site is copyrighted and cannot be used without permission.