Lost Coney Island by Charles Denson

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.
Categories: 

Comments

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

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.

I 'm glad I saw the candy murals before. They disappeared.

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....

I grew up in Luna Park in the 1960's, and spent many hours staring at those murals from my bedroom window. So sad to see that they have been destroyed. I was also sad to see the Brooklyn Union Gas Company building, the Shark Bridge, and the Astrotower taken down. I though the BUG building had been landmarked years ago, but apparently not.

Yes, I do back in the '60's...when we couldn't afford Gargiulo's down the block(across Mermaid Ave) Stella's was the place. In the beginning there was no waiting---and then a short wait--only had about a dozen tables. The food was great and the flies loved it too. My best memories (every time) was when Mom and Pop would Fight in the kitchen and then Pop would serve the food with a big smile. They would always throw pots/pans at each other--occasionally I would hear glass breaking and everyone would check their food for Glass. All good times. I also noticed your last name--Denson--I went to school with Diane Denson--any relation?

I remember Stella's fondly. I was born in Coney Island Hospital and my mother lived (if I remember correctly) on 13th Street around the corner from Woody Guthrie who lived on Mermaid. She recounts tales of him sitting on the stoop (NYC vernacular for the front steps of your home or apartment) singing and playing his guitar.

I recall the same histrionics of the mom and pop kitchen fights at Stella's but the memories are fading as this was 55 years ago. Over a dozen years my parents must have taken me there at least 50 times whenever we visited my Dad's aunt and uncle in Seagate. As a young food lover, Stella's was my standard for home cooked immigrant Italian food. The decor was poor man's Coney Island typical of the era but who cared. My clearest memory is when I was maybe 12 or 13 years old, the owner would always have a bottle of seltzer (the old glass bottle with the metal spray spout) on the table. He would pour me a half glass of cheap red wine and spritz it with the seltzer. What a hoot.

I spent many years visiting and walking around Coney Island. It truly was a wonderland of iconic history.

I loved the place!
I was told that the combative couple were not husband and wife, but brother and sister.

I was often there when the upstairs "deck" was occupied by rowdy Brooklyn Union Gas workers.
They sure knew how to have a good time.

Both sides of my family are from Coney but my mother's side (Jaccarino) ate at Stella's often. I remember going as a kid and being frightened because the couple who owner the place were always screaming and cursing at one another. I remember the flypaper hanging from the ceilings, and the walls which had lumps in them from where they painted over the flies! The animal nursery and the Wax Musee were defiently my favorite things as a child. I was disappointed that they were gone by the time I had kids of my own but at least Cyclone, Astrotower and Spookarama were stillthere <3

My hubby and I remember it well. We got engaged there almost 50 years ago. Great times. The wax covered empty wine bottles used as candle holders. And yes the flies, lol. I think we used more energy chasing them away than we did eating. We both grew up on CI and wouldn't change a thing. What a great childhood we had growing up there. So much has changed but we will always remember it as it was back in the day.

We run a program for seniors called Circle of Memories and our guest fondly remembers Stella's on W.15th St.
We are putting together a scrapbook for her and that would be a great photo to have. Thanks. John

I was hoping someone would remember the strolling violin player there on weekends. That was my grandfather (Sam) he was my hero and really miss him. If someone ever comes across any pics of Stella's, it would mean the world to me if you would share them with me. All the best everyone.

When I was a little girl, I went and graduated from Our Lady of Solace. My family and I always went to Stella's. The food was awesome. Never had good Italian food since. Such a shame it burned down.

Add new comment