By 1890 Coney Island had gone from being a windy scrubby wilderness with superb empty beaches, and through a violent era of gin mills and gambling hells.
For awhile it became a sedate spa for the rich who summered there in big wooden hotels.
Day and night the sands were crowded with bathers, and the noise of the great amusement park never seemed to cease.
The most popular of all the restaurants was the "Wooden Elephant," a huge restaurant built in the form of an elephant, topped by a pavilion like a howdah, and having great glass eyes which, when illuminated at night, shone like beacons.
So famous was this massive monument that the phrase, "seeing the elephant," signified a quest of unavowable satisfations in a disreputable place. In the picture, the building next to it is the Sea Beach Hotel.
L A ThompsonL A Thompson, the owner of the Electric Scenic Railway, built the world's first Roller Coaster on Coney Island in 1884. In 1897 another surge of growth was about to happen.
George C. TyltonA man named George C. Tylton owned a bathing spa on the southern end of the five mile island, and he was first to build the first of three amusement parks there, which would make it the most famous seaside resort in all the world. His cluster of amusements was ringed around by iron tracks on which some wooden horses swooped and dipped in a simulated race.
The End of the Park
As the years progressed, Americans became more accustomed to more violent, exciting, and diverse amusements than any Luna or Steeplechase could offer. The parks began to decay. Even during the Depression, where elephants had paraded in Luna Park, they were now offering cockroach races. In 1949, a final fire put the park out of it's misery, but Steeplechase held on until the 1960's before making way to a predictable parking lot.
Here is a video of Coney Island taken in the 1950's
Belt Parkway, Exit 7 north, then turn south all the way to the beachGallery of Luna Park, Dreamland, and Coney Island Postcards