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 Jun 15th, 2012
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
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

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.

posted on Jun 15th, 2012
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I grew up in Coney Island, living on 28th St between Surf and Mermaid from my birth in 1955 to 1965 when my family moved to Queens. I have a distinct memory that no one else seems to share. I remember a basement workplace on the corner of 28th and Surf where candy apples were made. The red kind with the crunchy candy on the outside. We would look into the basement and see bushels of fresh mackintosh apples and trays and trays of the finished candy apples on trays lined with wax paper. We would buy a fresh candy apple directly from the "candy apple man" in the basement. Is their any validity to my memory?
- Scott

Hello Scott,

Coney Island’s West End was home to many small candy factories that supplied the amusement zone. You’re probably thinking of Joffee’s Candy on Surf at West 28th, although there was another on Surf at 21st run by a man named George (can’t recall his last name). The shop on West 28th made candy canes, Jelly Apples and ribbon candies. The workers who put the plastic tubes on the ribbons were called “tubers” and the ones who bent the hooks on the canes were known as “hookers(!)”

The candy factory on West 21st made jelly apples, Twirl Pops, and the famous PANGO Pop (named for the flavors: Pineapple, Apple, Nectarine, Grape, and Orange: PANGO!) There was also Tom’s Candy on Mermaid Avenue behind the A&P. John Dorman operated Phillips Candy in the old Stillwell Terminal but moved to Staten Island after being evicted when the new facility was built. His business is still thriving on that other island.

Other factories were the one in the old Child’s Restaurant building on the Boardwalk, known for making “Peeps,” the iconic yellow Easter treats. And of course there was Bonomo’s on West 8th Street next to the Mangels factory. Bonomo is gone but building is still there with the beautiful candy-themed mosaics on the façade. Williams Candy, owned by Pete Agrapides, located next door to Nathans is the last old-fashioned candy shop and has a window full of sweet treats including jelly apples.

posted on May 15th, 2012
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
My Dad would bring me down to Coney to around where the aquarium is today. He would put me on the carousel, then sit in an adjacent bar & drink beer while I rode round & round happily for hours. I could see him & he could see me. We'd wave to each other. Here too, I think there was a "Helen Hotel" upstairs. The carousel, bar & hotel was in one building. Again, the late 40's.
- Judy Brown

Hello Judy,

You were riding on the Stubbmann Carousel at West 6th Street and Surf Avenue. The adjoining hotel where your father was enjoying libations was called the Hotel Eleanor. The Stubbmann Carousel was manufactured one block away by Mangels and Illions. The Carousel building and hotel were demolished in the 1950s to make room for the aquarium. The Stubbman's and Feltman's Carousels were later combined into one and installed at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair in Queens. Here are photos of the Stubbman's Pavilion and the hotel to refresh your memory.

 

posted on Mar 14th, 2012
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I was sitting by the water over near work and it made me miss Coney since I haven’t been over in months. Anyhow, it got me to wondering about where my parents met – Surf Lanes in Coney. Do you guys have any photos from Surf Lanes? Thank you!
- Scott

Hello Scott,

Here's a photo of Surf Lanes on Surf at 32nd Street taken shortly before it was demolished. It was formerly the Surf Theater and I remember it well because it was where I saw my first movie at the age of three. It became a bowling alley around '58 or '59. Also had a great bar! The yellow Art Deco building survived the urban renewal project that brought us the surrounding O'Dwdyer Gardens housing project but was torn down around 1980. The empty lot became an urban vegetable garden, and recently the site of a senior housing development.

posted on Mar 7th, 2012
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
Fudgy wudgy, hot knishes, ice cold orange drinks....what was the name of THAT orange drink ???
- Donald Russo

Dear Donald,

Sunny Boy was the name! It came in little waxed-paper containers. The distributor was located on West 36th Street and Neptune Avenue.

posted on Mar 7th, 2012
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
You have been so helpful to so many people and I appreciate it very much. Could you please give me the name of this building & what it was used for. Thanks!
- Jeanett

Hello Jeanett,

That structure, with its nautical themed terra cotta, is the former Childs Restaurant Building, built in 1924. There were once over 90 Childs establishments in NYC. The building is an official NYC landmark and will someday be restored as a restaurant and catering hall by Taconic Investment Properties, the company that has a 99-year lease on the property.

posted on Mar 7th, 2012
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
My Great grand uncle was Lazar Hann. According to family history, he and his wife, Fannie, owned and operated a restaurant at Coney Island around 1910-1920. We were told that it was the first Romanian restaurant at that location. Can you confirm this? Or, provide the name of the cafe ? Thanks so much for your help.
- D. Preston

Hello Preston,

There were several Romanian restaurants on Surf Avenue but the most popular was Carmen Sylva's, an older establishment known for its "steaks and chops" that remained open for business until the 1960s. Does this sound like their restaurant?

posted on Feb 14th, 2012
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I hope you can help. My mother died recently and in cleaning out the house where she lived i came across a photo album with many pics of the 1920's and 30's of my grandmother and grandfather on my fathers side. There were many pics showing scenes on a beach with what looks like a beach club and some kind of elevated wood structure in the background. This structure does not look like a boardwalk. One pic, which i attached, shows my grandfather with children in front of him and in the upper left a building which i can only make out a partial name ...... *hman Baths and Restaurant. I believe this bath is either Coney Island, or somewhere in Brighton or Manhattan Beach, and if you can identify it, you would help in putting together a little piece of family history for us. Thanks so much in advance!
- Joseph Tague

Hello Joseph,

The date of this photo is circa 1921-22 and the building in the background is Bushman Baths, located at West 15th and the Boardwalk (which is under construction in the photo, completed in 1923.) Bushman Baths burned in 1973. Note the spelling change in the name (they dropped the "c" somewhere along the way.)

Hope this helps!

Dear Mr. Coney Island...
A question concerning Paul's Daughter building: Was it built by Feltman's when Boardwalk straightened in 1939? What was it built as?
- Coney Fan

Hello Coney Fan,

The Paul's Daughter building on the Boardwalk at West 10th Street was built by Feltmans shortly after the Boardwalk was moved. The new fireproof, streamlined, "Art Moderne-style" building replaced the ornate wooden Feltmans Boardwalk Restaurant that was erected in 1923 on the site of the old Petersen's Hotel which had occupied Feltmans oceanfront property since the 1880s.

 

posted on Dec 12th, 2011
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
We lived in Coney Island from the 1930's to the 1970's. Early on, I seem to remember my mother and aunts and friends and people from all over, all ages, all walks of life, gathering in the "Pavilion" on the boardwalk, especially on the summer Tuesday fireworks night to talk, perhaps gossip, but especially to sing. Most of the songs were Yiddish, with beautiful longing melodies which I can still remember.

In speaking of this with some people in my family, they say I remember it through "rose colored glasses". Did it exist? Can you validate when and where. Was it as I remember as a young boy?
- David Levine

Hello David,

Your memory is correct. The Boardwalk originally had four Mediterranean style pavilions located at West 35th St, West 29th, West 24th, and West 12th Streets.The pavilions at the West End were popular gathering places on summer evenings. Residents of the Hebrew Home for the Aged, located in the old Half Moon Hotel, would sing songs and tell stories in the pavilion at West 29th Street. The pavilions suffered arson fires and were demolished in the 1970s. Here are photographs of the pavilions in the 1920s and shortly before demolition.​