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posted on Jul 19th, 2011
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I lived in Coney Island from 1930's to 1950's. As a boy I often swam in Gravesend bay where Sea Gate began. There was an abandoned ferry boat stuck in the sand alongside what was left of a pier. Do you know anything about it or some pictures of it? Boy do I have memories of the garbage dump at the end of Sea Gate where they used to burn the garbage. I now live in the San Diego, California area with my family.
- David Moses

Hello David,

The 123-foot ferryboat was named the Sylph and her scant remains are sometimes revealed when the beach at West 37th Street becomes eroded after storms. A few weathered pilings from the pier also can be seen and they mark the boat's location just to the west of the pier.

The ferry made scheduled commuter runs from Sea Gate to Manhattan until around 1950 when the service ended and the ferryboat was abandoned at the pier.

The Sylph was commissioned in 1898 as a naval patrol boat and also served briefly as the presidential yacht in the 1920s before being sold in 1929 for use as a party fishing boat out of Sheepshead Bay. The Sea Gate run began in 1939.

The boat was a fixture of my childhood and I remember playing on the wreck in the early 1960s, before a series of fires and storms leveled it to the waterline and it was buried beneath the beach. Here is a photo of the boat taken circa 1938 and one of the ruins at the pier taken in 1950 by Phil Horn.

posted on May 12th, 2011
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I used to stay part of the summer with my aunt in Greenpoint. One day she gave me a choice of going to the movies or going to Coney Island. Although I loved Coney Island, I hated the train ride so I chose the movies. The next day, she told me that it was good that I chose the movies because somebody shot-up Coney Island and nine people died. This would have been 1960 or so. Did this shooting really happen? I've googled it with no results. Thank you!
- Elaine

Hello Elaine,

The shooting took place in 1962. Two policemen died and six others were shot. It was a turning point for Coney's reputation. I remember it well. The incident is mentioned in the book: Coney Island Lost and Found. Here is a partial clipping:

posted on May 12th, 2011
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
Did female riders on the Steeplechase horses ride sidesaddle or astride during the early years of the ride?
- J. Bowers

Hello Mr. Bowers,

The women rode sidesaddle! Here's a victorian view of fun-loving female equestrians.

posted on Mar 28th, 2011
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
Could you tell me where the giant wooden elephant hotel was located? There is a painting by William Merrit Chase, entitled Landscape Near Coney Island, that depicts a couple of ladies in Victorian garb, picking berries along the seashore (see attacvhed). In the background, on a barrier beach across a narrow bay, is the elephant. I suspect the ladies are picking berries where the Belt Parkway is now, somewhere around Dreier Offerman Park. I’d like a more precise location for the hotel to confirm my hunch on where the scene is located or getting a better bearing. Thanks!
- Mike

Hello Mike,

No attachment came in with your email but I know the painting and have used it in my presentations. The view is looking east and the women are standing at Coney Hook at the border of Sea Gate (roughly where Coney Creek Park is located).

The bay behind them was later filled in to create Kaiser Park. The Elephant Hotel was located on the north side of Surf Avenue near 12th Street.

posted on Mar 28th, 2011
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
Where was this ice cream parlor located onthe boardwalk ? I cannot figure it out. Thanks!
- Coney Fan

Hello Coney Fan,

That building was on the Ward property at the corner of Jones Walk at the Boardwalk. It was demolished when the Boardwalk was moved inland in 1941. Here's an aerial view: Hope this helps. 

posted on Mar 18th, 2011
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I have some letters from a great aunt written in 1917 when she was working for the summer at Health House, on Surf and W. 23rd street. It seems to have been a place for mothers to send their children. She wrote of a measles quarantine, which was unexpected. Any idea of what this place was? Thanks!
- Susan

Hello Susan,

The facility was the Children's Aid Society. It was located in Coney Island from the 1870s until 1924. There were four other similar organizations. Mothers and their children, mostly from poor neighborhoods, were invited to stay in beachside bungalows or the Surf Avenue hospital to learn about child-rearing, health care, and good hygiene.

Men were not allowed to stay but could visit on weekends. Here is a picture of the facility.

posted on Jan 7th, 2011
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I just read your answer to an inquiry about a bungalow colony called Villanove Court. My family rented a bungalow in a place called Carlton Court in the summer of 1954. Do you have any info on that place?
- Chef Henry

Hello Chef Henry,

Carlton Court was located on West 35th Street between Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk. The resort was owned and operated by Agnes Stephenson and then sold in the 1930s to Herman Berman and Joe Feld of B&F Bungalows. They also operated the adjacent Sea Gate (Villa) Casino on West 36th. Carlton operated from around 1910 until 1966 when the property was sold to Max Berman who demolished the bungalows in 1972.

The furnished bungalows were rented for the whole season, the most expensive being the two story boardwalk structures that offered a view of the ocean. There was a central path that led to a "pavilion" by the Boardwalk that had handball courts and tables and chairs where people gathered to play cards or Mah-Jong. Sometimes B&F hired bands to play at the pavilion dances. Carlton tenants were mostly repeat seasonal customers who considered themselves one big Coney Island family!

posted on Dec 22nd, 2010
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I have a family photo that I have guessed is at Coney Island, but I can't seem to find any images online that show the landmarks in it or the right angle for me to identify it properly. Can you tell if it is at Coney? From the ages of my grandparents and the some of the children (my aunts & uncle) in it, my guess is that the photo is circa 1920 - 1922. (More likely the earlier year.) From what I have read, if it is Coney at that time then the roller coaster could possibly be the Giant Racer?
- John

Hello John,

The photograph was taken between West 8th Street and West 5th on the public beach at the former site of Dreamland. The turreted building on the right is the Sagamore Hotel, on the corner of West 8th and Surf Avenue. The coaster is the Giant Racer, and the two towers behind it belong to Luna's Aquadrome entrance at West 10th Street. The tent-like structure behind the tent in foreground houses the Dreamland Circus Sideshow and the billboard just behind the tent was located above the L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway. Nice photo!

posted on Oct 21st, 2010
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I am guessing that these pictures were taken around 1912. My question is are they pictures of Coney Island and if not do you have any idea of where they might have been taken. In the picture of the beach we can read "Petersen's Pavilion" and "Stauch's Baths". In the boardwalk picture you can read "Klondike Pioneer Placer Gold Mine". Thanks!
- Gary Long

Hello Gary,

One of your photos was taken on the Coney Island beach looking east. It was taken before 1911 because the large structure on the pier is the Dreamland Ballroom, which burned in 1911. The tower in the center is the top of Dreamland's Shoot-the-Chutes. Ward's boardwalk can be seen on the left, and behind the Stauch's sign is Petersen's, a bathhouse located behind Feltman's on Jones Walk. The beach is extremely narrow and was not expanded until the Boardwalk was built in 1923.

posted on Aug 28th, 2010
Dear Mr. Coney Island...
About 1946 my family visited Coney Island. My older brother and I made some records there. Both of us sang a song and it was broadcast over the loud speaker and recorded on records. The records have long since disappeared but I wonder if you might have any information about this recording booth? Thank you!
- Ann Marie

Hello Ann Marie,

"Voice-O-Graph" machines resembled phone booths and there were at least two dozen of them located in arcades all over Coney Island in the 1940s. The machines were manufactured by International Mutoscope. The company also made the Photomatic photo booths that printed black and white photos in a small metal frame. In the 1940s it would have cost 25 cents to record a record and a personalized label with your name on it was extra. You could sing a song or record a birthday message.

Your voice was recorded at 78 RPM, a technology that's hard to find today. The machines switched to 33 RPM in 1957 and some were still operating in Coney Island through the mid-1960s. Here is a picture of a record that was recorded at AmuseOMat arcade on Surf Avenue.

Would love to hear your recording!