The Half Moon Hotel

Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I was born on the boardwalk in Coney Island in June, 1950 at the Half Moon Hotel. I've heard about Abe Rellis and that the hotel was a very popular destination for more affluent guests during the early 20th century. I heard that by the time I was born there, it wasn't called the Half Moon Hotel but the Harbor Hospital. Could you tell me what you know about the Half Moon Hotel? Thanks.
- Alan Drucker

Hello Alan,

The Half Moon Hotel, with it's great mosaic dome, opened for business on May 5th, 1927 on the Boardwalk at West 29th Street. It was managed by the American Hotels Corporation and financed by prominent members Coney Island Chamber of Commerce, including William Ward, Charles Feltman, Edward Tilyou, and William Mangels. The Half Moon was sited at the outer fringe of the amusement area on the theory that the Boardwalk between the hotel and Stillwell Avenue would fill in with other luxury establishments. Many prominent guests visited the hotel and it remained a popular venue for weddings and banquets.

The Great Depression killed the Chamber's dream of greatness and the hotel sat exiled at the West End until the beginning of WW II when it was transformed into a naval hospital. In 1941 the hotel gained notoriety when mob turncoat Abe Reles fell to his death from a sixth floor window while under police protection shortly before he was due to testify in court. No one knows for sure whether he was pushed or slipped during an escape attempt. After the war the Half Moon became Harbor Hospital and in 1953, the Hebrew Home for the Aged. The elegant building was demolished in 1996 before it could be landmarked.

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Comments

Hi,
I really enjoyed your page about Coney Island. I was also born in Harbor Hospital..on Dec. 6, 1949. My father grew up in Coney Island, and my mother was from Brighton Beach. After I was born, I lived on Corbin Place in Manhattan Beach, and then in 1953 we moved to East 16 Street in Sheepshead Bay...where my family still lives.
Thanks again for some great info...I really enjoyed reading this.

I was born in Brooklyn in 1948. We lived on W. 33rd st. on Coney island. By the time I could remember, it was a Jewish old age home and my grandmother took me to visit her cousins living there. She regaled us with stories of the hotel's former glory.

I read your email about your ties to Half Moon Hotel and being born on Dec 6, 1949.
I also was born at HMH on Dec 25,1949 and, ironically I lived on 16th St, just down the road from St. Marks RCC. We left Brooklyn and 16th St in 1955 for the "country" on Long Island.
But, we grew up at FWIL Lundy's and Joe's Clam Bar and Tappens Restaurant on 19th and approximately Voorhies Ave.
Also, my grandmother worked at Brighton Beach Baths from 1927 until shortly before her passing in 1977, 50 years as a locker attendant.
This brought back some memories of another time in my life!

for years I've told people I was born at the half moon hotel and no one believed me.
I am so happy there is evidence I can point to.

Does anybody have any information on Murder Inc along with old names.

I remember the Half Moon Hotel when it was the Harbour Hospital. My Aunt Gertie used to work there and took us there often. I was born in November 5, 1944 at Peck Memorial Hospital also in Brooklyn and lived on the corner of Shore Parkway and East 15th Street on the Bay side of the Belt Parkway with my Grandma & Grandpa Veltri. I have very fond memories of Sheepshead Bay. I lived there until I was in my 40's and some of my family still lives there. It was great growing up at that time and that neighborhood.

In inheriting my Uncle estate who was wounded in WWII passed away in Dec 2008, found all his old letters and a photo of the U. S. Naval Special Hospital Sea Gate, which is in fact the same Half Moon Hotel. His mail was sent there from Jul 2, 1945 until his discharge at that location on 22 April 1947, therefore it served the Navy at least throughout that period. Another story of a landmark building!

I was told when the half moon Hotel was standing, the NYC Police Department was holding a witness there. But before he could get to court he fell out the window, Is this a true story. also do you know anything about murder Inc and George Narder. Thank you

It was a sad day when i saw the wreckers ball slamming in to the side of the building. What was not mentioned was that it was called the Metropolitan Jewish Geriatric Center. It had been called that from as far back as I can remember in the 70's. They held off on the demolition until the new MJGC was completed and fully functioning. I do recall that there was a snag in the demo. When they were using the ball part of the upper structure was starting to fall before they were ready to work in that area and a huge steel beam was exposed and dangling. I remember the work had stopped till they were able to safely remove the beam without having any of the building collapse around it. To bad that building was not landmarked. Now there is a high Rise condo in it's place.
I no longer live in Coney Island but when I see pictures of what is happening to it I get pains as if I lost a friend. The first major motion picture i ever saw was King Kong Vs Godzilla at the RKO Tilyou. A few years later it was gone. All that was left was a vacant lot. Some 40 plus years later it is still that same vacant lot.

Whoever killed Abe Reles had a good sense o humor. He was thrown to his death on the day of the last quarter... a half-moon.

It was an incredibly beautiful building. I welled up with tears when I visited the old neighborhood, and saw the hideous neo deco monstrosity they raised in it's place. The Half Moon Hotel really should have had landmark status. It was one of Coney Island's last glowing treasures. As a child I loved looking in the glass showcase windows on the boardwalk side to see what new popsicle building fete the seniors in the Jewish Geriatriac Art Center had created. Also fondly remember it always towering behind us each week as we watched the fireworks eating lemon Italian ices. It always struck me as looking a bit like an extraordinary drip sand castle, fancy enough to make a fitting palace for the court of Neptune.

During WW2 my Dad was sent to the Coney Island VA hospital at the Half Moon Hotel, US Naval Special Hospital Sea Gate, after getting shrapnel in his shoulder during a shelling. While recuperating there, he built a beautiful wooden rocking horse for my older brothers. When it was a touch nearing completion, an officer's wife happened to be touring, saw the horse and he was "ordered" to hand it over so that she could give it to her children. Thirty years later, he was still piss and vinegar furious about the the injustice of the incident.

What a shame to have lost yet another wonderful and intensely quintessential symbol of Coney Island past like Astro Land. Why they could not have simply rehabed the inside of the building and saved the building's beautiful prewar exterior is beyond me.

The real story about Abe rellis here is that my Grandfather Detective George Estes went there to arrest Abe Rellis and instead threw him out the window and tied the bed sheets together to make it look like he was trying to escape. My father Jack Estes

I was born in 1949 but spent much of my summers in Brighten Beach. I remember the story of Abe Rellis, with the puch line "not all canary's can fly".

I met my wife there at this hotel I'am sadden to say it's no longer there. I'am very surprise they torn it down to make it into a senior center. That building had a lot of history. It's kinda funny I live down the block from where Tony Curtis who made that movie there. In Las Vegas. I use to walk up the to the dome everyday when I work as a security guard. I love that building.

HI I LIVED ON 29 ST MY FATHER WORK THERE IN THE 1955 HE WAS A COOK WHEN IT WAS A NURSIN

HOME THEN CALLED HEBREW HOME FOR THE AGED. I WOULD GO THERE TO HAVE LUNCH WITH MY DAD

I FELT SAD WHEN THEY KNOCK IT DOWN. I MOVE FROM CONEY ISLAND IN 1960 WENT BACK IN 2007

I ALMOST COULD CRY VERY SAD FOR CONEY ISLAND

Hi, I was born at Harbor Hospital on May 2, 1950. How cool to see others posting here. We lived in Bensonhurst, but moved to Paterson, NJ in 1953. My Brooklyn grandmother took us to Steeplechase during the summer, I remember the inside amusement park, what a place to experience. Very sad the Half Moon/Harbor is gone, looks like it was a beautiful building. Betty

I lived on W. 30 st, many of my friends and classmates lived in the Surf Ave Building next to the Half Moon Hotel. One of my classmates lived in the Hotel in the mid 40's, then it became the Maternity hospital. I remember sledding down the boardwalk ramp that was at the front steps of the Hotel in the winters. My Mother worked as a Nurse there when it became a Home for the aged. I was married in the synogouge there in Sept. 1960.

around 1968 my grandmother moved to an apartment building they built across the street from the half moon hotel. she had lived in coney island from the time she left Ellis island till she passed away. she and her sister bought a home there, got married, raised their kids (my dad). Dad grew up, went in the service and got married and as we were growing up, we went to coney island all the time to visit. oh the memories i have. the boardwalk, fireworks, shops, side shows, rides. steeplechase was my favorite. all the highly polish wood slides, and i particuarly love the ride that was like a big doughnut with a raised platform u sat on and had to either stay or return to as the ride was spinning. if u did, u would win a prize. then we went back and those particular rides were gone. when they tore it down we were already relocated to florida, which some of the rides made it to Pirate's World in Hollywood. we went back to coney island and was just sick at heart at how it had changed and not for the better. so sad.

Hi, i came accross this website looking for info of the hosp. I was born in. I also have such fond memories of Brighten Beach. Steeplechase and Sheepsaid Bay from where I'm from. I have a question. Ray Lebo said he had a friend that lived in the Half Moon hotel in the Middle 40's. I was born in Harbor Hospital in 1942. When did it what year did it change to Harbor hospital?

Hi, In your article it is said that the Habor Hospital opened at the end of ww2. I'm baffled because my birth certificate says I was born at the Harbor Hospital on Jan.27,l942. Was there another Harbor Hosp. I enoyed your article very much. I have so many fond memories of Sheepsaid Bay, Brighton
Beach, and
Coney Island. Thankyou, Sarah

I have a photograph of my father's family attending the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. M. Cerami at the Half Moon Hotel on October 19, 1941. I came to this website to find information about the Half Moon Hotel and, if possible, the connection my family had to the Cerami family. There are approximately 150 - 200 people in attendance. Any information would be appreciated.

I'd like to be in touch with Brian Estes, who comments that he's the grandson of the late Det. George Estes. I am doing some historical research on Abe Reles / Murder Inc. Brian's comment of 2010 was in the item on the Half Moon Hotel. Thank you (robpolner@gmail.com). Brian, kindly send me an email.

In reply tp Mr. Estes, if your Grandfather was there he must have known mine,James Boyle who was in the room with 3 other detectives playing cards while reles was in his bedroom-Captain Balls who stopped by checked on reles and he was the last one who say him alive

I was also born in 1950 at the Half Moon Hotel --which was a hospital then. I heard from
my mother that because the hospital/hotel was in difficult financial straits at the
time all they had to eat for days was spaghetti, spaghetti and more spagehetti!
I am a writer (last book: In The Valley of The Kings, Random House, 2009) who
has lived in Egypt for six years to write narrative Egyptian history--but I always
come back to Coney Island to regain sanity, perspecitive, strength and joy.
Daniel Myerson/Meyerson (also wrote: The Linguist and The Emperor and
Blood and Splendor. Going out with my first novel this year. It is called:
The Reenactment.)

My grandfather had a Kosher Deli " Rosenberg's Deli" on Mermaid Ave between W. 29th Street and W. 30th Street. He opened the store in 1917 and closed in 1975.

When my Mom was a young woman, she used to deliver sandwiches from Rosenberg's to the Half Moon Hotel when they were holding Abie Reles there.

I grew up on W. 29th between Mermaid and Neptune. It was a great place to grow up.

My grandmother was a resident at the Hebrew Home For The Aged during the 1960s. My family would go visit her almost every weekend. I have very fond memories of sitting with her on a bench in the pavillion that was in front of the building, strolling on the boardwalk, and going swimming during the summer. Happy days. Loved going to Coney Island when I was kid!

In reply to Mike Domo, James Boyle is your grandfather? James boyle is my Great grandfather..
Just made a family connection! Hello cousin?
Ive been researching this story about great grandfather and have begun finding family members along the way.

Great site.
Born November 30, 1949 @ the Half Moon. My mother tells the story about the "Polar Bear Club" swimming on Dec. 1 while holding me and looking out the window. Born in a hotel, with gangsters and such, water view, and Polar Bears..... Thanks Mom for such and exciting first day.... Been the same ever since!

I was born at the Harbor Hospital in April of 1950. I lived at 2982 West 30th Street between Mermaid and Surf Avenues in a home that my great-grandparents bought at the turn of the century. We had three bungalows in our backyard that were rented out to families who would come to Coney Island to summer. My entire family grew up there. My grandfather, Sam Solomons, had a beauty salon on Mermaid Avenue called Arthur's. My father's father, Harry Tessler, owned a dry cleaning store on West 37th Street. It was a magical place to live. I have amazing memories of that time.

Coney Island brings back such wonderful memories for me. My mother grew up on West 36th Street between Surf and Mermaid Aveune and we often visited her old block and took long walks on the boardwalk. We passed the building that once was the Half Moon Hotel on many occasions and my mother told me of its opulence during its heyday and of stories of some of the guests who stayed there. Apparently the room rates were quite pricy for those days and it attracted an affluent crowd. As the years went by and I would drive down Surf Avenue towards Sea Gate, I always wondered what the view of the Atlantic Ocean would look like from the highest floor. I had known it became the Metropolitan Jewish Geriatric Center but always marveled at this edifice as though it was the grand jewel of this majestic peninsula. Just last week my friend from Queens and I took a drive down Surf Avenue and I gave a personal tour of the area, taking note of what buildings remained and what are gone. Lots of bittersweet moments of a beautiful bygone era.

I'm curious to know, what currently stands in the place of the former Half Moon Hotel?

I worked for Metropolitan Jewish Geriatrics Center from 1987 - 1989 as the head of The Telefriend Program, which used Lifeline personal emergency equipment. (I've fallen and I can't get up). It started out being the old Half Moon Hotel from the twenties. There is so much history in that beautiful building. It was demolished in 1996 and now a high rise condos stands there. That is so sad. When I passed it a few years ago I could not believe that they tore down that beautiful historic building. Nothing is the same in Coney Island anymore.

My dad used to speak of his childhood days at my grandfathers business on the boardwalk. The Half Moon Bazaar Auction. Your article leads me to assume it was a boardwalk level storefront in the hotel building. They auctioned off all kinds of stuff, and he always made the stories sound like it was a freak show of their very own and a source for great stories

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