Coney Island

150 Years of Rides, Fires, Floods, the Rich, the Poor and Finally Robert Moses


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About the Book

Before the Civil War, Coney Island boasted a beach, a dozen small hotels with ramshackle bathhouses, some chowder stands and a few saloons. After the war, it was taken over by powerful individuals who made its 0.7 square miles a domain of the wealthy. By 1905, with the population of New York City at four million, the city’s amusement park builders designed an entertainment wonderland on the island that even the poor could enjoy, creating a “nickel empire,” where visitors paid five cents for the subway, five cents for a Nathan’s hot dog and five cents for a ride. In 1910, Coney Island saw 20 million visitors—more than Disneyland and Disney World combined could claim 70 years later, adjusted for population growth. Through the decades, the island has seen changes of fortune, floods and fires, cycles of decay and rehabilitation. Yet the ultimate power on the island was and is the government of the city of New York, which—for good or ill—has made Coney Island what it is today.

About the Author(s)

William J. Phalen holds a Ph.D. in American history from Rutgers University. He lives in Staten Island, New York.

Bibliographic Details

William J. Phalen
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 208
Bibliographic Info: 23 photos, 2 maps, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2016
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9816-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2373-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Preface 1

Introduction 3

1. From Sand and Marsh to the Iron Horse 7

2. 19th-Century Players 30

3. The Turn of the 20th Century 59

4. The Parks: Sea Lion Park, Steeplechase Park, and Brighton Beach Park 86

5. Luna Park and Dreamland 110

6. The Nickel Empire 137

7. Decline and Rebirth? 163

Chapter Notes 181

Bibliography 193

Index 197

Book Reviews & Awards

“Phalen laces his historical narrative throughout with first-person accounts and countless excerpts from the press…. Highly recommended”—Choice.