2012-08-17 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

A Few Old Views Of Pre-1923 Coney Island Beaches
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

With this installment of Historical Views, we will look at a few views of old Coney Island, in the days before Coney’s Rigelman Boardwalk, named after the borough president, was constructed.

The first view shows the old Giant Coaster on the beach, and the long Steeplechase Pier, from George C. Tilyou’s Steeplechase Park from out into the ocean. Near the Giant Coaster are the Giant Coaster Baths, Ward’s Baths, and Petersen’s Baths. There is a small wooden boardwalk seen under the Ward’s sign, and an erosion control wooden jetty goes out into the ocean. The small sign reads that bathing is dangerous- stay within the lines of rope.

The Rockaways once had four rollercoasters once, the Hurricane in Playland, the Thriller at Beach 104 Street, the Jack Rabbit on Beach 99 Street, and the Old Thunderbolt on Beach 102 Street.

Coney had seven or eight big coasters, the Thunderbolt, the Tornado, the Comet, the Rocket, the Giant Coaster, the Mile High Sky Chaser, and in 1927 came the famous Cyclone. At present the score is. Rockaway- 0, Coney- 1, and both places can thank Robert Moses.

The second view is a lot closer to the Coney Island Pier, within safety ropes and warnings to bathers to stay within the ropes.

As the Rockaway Peninsula was extending westward (until the Rock Hook Jetty was placed at the Point in 1933) it was causing erosion problems at Coney, just as the Long Beach Bar does to Edgemere and Arverne, and still does! Steamers stopped at the Steeplechase Pier at Coney, before continuing to the Rockaway Piers in Jamaica Bay.

The third and last view is of the Steeplechase Park Bathing Beach. Steeplechase Park was between West 16 Street and West 19 Street, at the western end of Coney’s amusement area, which went east as far as West 5 Street.

With his success at Coney, George C. Tilyou built his second Steeplechase Park in Rockaway Beach in 1901, complete with the same mechanical gravity type Steeplechase horse ride.

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