Get Ready for Another Season at Coney Island With Some Vintage Images of Brooklyn’s Playground

The Old Mill at Luna Park, circa 1905. Photo via Library of Congress


As thoughts turn to all the warm-weather activities we can look forward to in the coming months, it’s a perfect time to relive the heyday of Coney Island with some vintage shots of fun seekers making the most of the sandy destination spot.

While the types of amusements may have changed over the decades, the need for entertainment and a bit of flash and wonder haven’t changed much. If a look at the fun of the past inspires you to make a trip out to Coney Island, the season is now gearing up. Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park opened on March 25 and Luna Park in Coney Island is scheduled to open on April 9.

coney island historic images library

Luna Park, 1903. Photo by William H. Rau via Library of Congress

The behatted spectators are gazing at the Shoot-the-Chutes ride at Luna Park. The fast boat ride down a steep track was the brainstorm of Paul Boyton, who debuted the water ride at his park in Illinois in 1894 before building this one in Coney Island in 1895. The ride was originally built as part of Sea Lion park, and when the park was transformed into Luna Park in 1903, the ride was retained.

coney island historic photos

Surf Avenue, circa 1900-1906. Photo via Library of Congress

Amusement seekers in the early 20th century found plenty of diversions on Surf Avenue, still the main artery for entertainment in the area. In the background of the image you can spot Loop the Loop, an early looping roller coaster which opened in 1901. The Board of Health was so concerned about the potential “danger to life and limb” that, according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, they temporarily shut down the ride after it opened.

coney island historic photos library congress

A miniature railway, circa 1905. Photo via Library of Congress

If you were looking for a more sedate ride you may have chosen a calming turn on a miniature electric railway at Luna Park. While a few children can be spotted in the cars it looks like most of the passengers on this circa 1905 run were adults.

coney island historic photos library congress

Luna Park, 1911. Photo via Library of Congress

A higher view of the action could be achieved with elephant and camel rides through the parks. Here some fabulously attired women take a saunter on Judy, one of the elephants of Luna Park.

coney island historic photos library of congress

The ballroom at Dreamland, circa 1905. Photo via Library of Congress

Slightly more elegant entertainment could be found at the Dreamland Ballroom, which opened with the park in 1904. While it’s looking a bit empty in this shot, the large, brightly lit space was a popular venue for dancing and music. It was situated on a pier that gave it “glorious vistas of the sea,” according to a review at the time that ran in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

coney island historic photos library of congress

Dreamland, circa 1905. Photo via Library of Congress

Along with Luna Park and Steeplechase Park, Dreamland was one of the three major amuseument parks at Coney Island in the early 20th century. This view of Dreamland gives a glimpse of some the entertainment on hand. On the left is Bostock’s Animal Arena, promising lions, tigers and bears. There’s also a miniature railroad, a theater and a concession stand selling “Purtan Water” for 2 cents.

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