Another Coney Landmark Lost

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




It is a shame that the "original" structure could not been be saved but when you really look at it (the altered gate photo from 2002) and as I remember it from the 50's and 60's, it was a mere shell of its former grand self. The Board members of the Sea Gate Association made those changes a long time ago. Did they hire an architect to maintain its original style? It looks to me that they did not. We tend to become nostalgic about things that were around when we were there but in truth those things change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Maybe it's time for something new with a nod to the past.


Many fond memories growing up in Sea Gate. The main entrance way was more than just a nostalgic structure. It represented the pathway in to a magnificent private community, my home, safety, the Lighthouse,
Security, the beach, tranquility. Sometimes change is good. History will decide.

Hope we can all understand that it had to be taken down; the department of building would not allow it to stand any longer. The damage from Hurricane Sandy was severe.

Console yourselves with crocodile tears. The gatehouse could have been restored. Perhaps someone can produce an estimate from an experienced restoration contractor, someone with an actual preservation track record, documenting the cost of restoration v.s. the cost of demolition, cleanup and disposal of the debris, then the cost of new construction, an estimate that would justify this chosen course of action?

No? Too bad.

The destroyed gatehouse was a distinguished piece of architecture, of a building form that is nearly extinct. It was certainly a far more distinguished design than the Art-Deco-Ditto thing that is to be built on its site.

So, go ahead and pretend demolition and replacement was the only option if it helps you feel better.

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