The Surf Avenue Gate in the 1890s.
Coney Island recently lost one of its most historic landmarks when the Surf Avenue entrance to Sea Gate, with its gracefully sweeping wooden archway, was unceremoniously demolished to make way for a new streamlined gateway.
The eclectic wood-shingled Victorian, with its exquisite arches and domed towers, was built in 1897 as the grand entrance to a new community that sprang up at Norton's Point at the western tip of Coney Island. In 2012 the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy caused irreparable damage to the structure, forcing the relocation of the offices of the Sea Gate Association and the Sea Gate Police Department, which had occupied the building for more than a century.
Over the decades, the gateway suffered unfortunate alterations that resulted in the loss of the towers, wooden shingles, and other distinguishing features of the original design. The archway, however, remained intact until September 2018 when it was brought to the ground and crushed by an excavator.
When I was growing up in Coney Island Houses, my bedroom window faced the old gateway down at the end of Surf Avenue, and I remember the illuminated archway and Coney Island lighthouse behind it serving as reassuring nightlights against the black sky and the ocean beyond. In 1999 I was permitted to climb inside the arch (then used by the Sea Gate Association for storage, and accessible through a small trapdoor) to view the intricate maze of wooden trusses that supported the span. It's a shame that the building could not be saved and restored as this kind of architecture will never again be seen in Coney Island.
— Charles Denson
The Gate circa 1900. © Charles Denson Archive
The altered Gate, 2002 Photo by Charles Denson
The Gate is now a fence, October 1, 2018 Photo by Charles Denson
The Gate suffered severe damage in Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Charles Denson, Oct 2012
The new streamlined gate will include historic references to the old structure. Photo by Charles Denson