2012-02-10 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

We Had One Of These In Rockaway Beach A Long Time Ago!
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

A real blast from the past is always welcomed by readers of Historical Views in The Wave. Do you remember, or have you ever been told about old Steeplechase Park, at Coney Island, in Brooklyn?

Steeplechase Park was built at Coney Island by George C Tilyou, in 1897.

The park took its name from the Steeplechase Gravity Horse Ride that went in, out and around the giant Steeplechase Park pavilion in Brooklyn.

With the success of his new park at Coney Island, Tilyou decided to build another at Rockaway Beach. Steeplechase Park was complete with a gravity horse ride and other features popular at Coney. Tilyou built his new amusement park near the beach between Beach 97 Street and Beach 100 Street, between Rockaway Beach Boulevard and the oceanfront (today’s St. Camillus R.C. Church property). Tilyou and his sons built many other Steeplechase Parks on the Jersey Shore, and to the south of New Jersey.

After his death in 1914, the park in Rockaway Beach was sold, and the old Steeplechase ride was removed to another park elsewhere. There was never any reason given for the sale of the park in Rockaway Beach, but one guess is that the L.A. Thompson Park next door, (the future Rockaways’ Playland) was becoming more popular.

Thompson had brought his midway and rollercoaster (his invention) to Steeplechase Park in 1902, at Tilyou’s urging, after President William Mckinley was murdered at Thompson’s Midway attraction at the Buffalo, New York Exposition in 1901.

It was said that Thompson was going bankrupt from the loss of attendance during the national mourning period.

Thompson purchased the land his midway was on, from Tilyou, in 1905, and from then on they both did what was best to get patrons to their parks. After their father passed away it seems that Tilyou’s sons did not care about working with Thompson as their father did…or they didn’t pay attention to the old man, and didn’t learn how to survive in the business. Robert Moses destroyed the Coney Island Amusement area, as he did the Seaside Amusement area here, but Thompson’s successor park, Rockaways’ Playland, was a stone in Moses’ shoe that wouldn’t come out !

Today Historical View is a shot of the Steeplechase at Coney Island in the 1950’s. R.I.P.

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