Posts Tagged ‘Coney Island in the 1870s’

It’s hard to believe this unspoiled beach is Coney Island in the 1870s

September 27, 2021

Before the Cyclone, before Nathan’s, before the boardwalk, sideshows, amusement parks, bathhouses, mass numbers of beachgoers wading into the surf, Coney Island was an actual island where settlers in the English colony at Gravesend let their animals graze, according to Brooklyn magazine.

Coney’s transformation into the world’s most famous beach resort began in the first half of the 19th century, with the arrival of Coney Island House.

But things really ramped up once the railroads arrived in the 1860s, and then when Ocean Parkway was completed in the 1870s, states westland.net by Jeffrey Stanton.

By the end of the 1870s, the big hotels came in, and pretty soon, thousands of New Yorkers every summer headed out by rail, road, or steamboat to what was dubbed the People’s Playground and Sodom by the Sea. After the turn of the century, Coney became even more popular.

Its era as a “spit of sand” that had been “lonely with rabbits” was long gone. But perhaps these 1870s beach photos, from the collection of the Brooklyn Public Library by George Bradford Brainerd, were taken at a pivotal moment in time.

That moment would have been after Coney Island had become a destination but before the great hotels ushered in the era of bathing pavilions and amusement parks, of cheap food and curiosities like disaster spectacles, exotic animals, and infant incubators.

[Photos: Brooklyn Public Library]