The old Feltman’s kitchen building on the Astroland site is among the structures set to be demolished to make way for new amusements on the City-owned parcel. This humble building is the last remnant of the fabulous block-long restaurant and entertainment empire owned by Charles Feltman, the inventor of the hot dog.
According to Ric Burns’s movie about Coney Island, Nathan Handwerker worked in Feltman’s kitchen and slept on the floor for a year before he went on to found Nathan’s Famous! Since Feltman’s consisted of nine restaurants, a beer garden, a maple garden and much more, we can’t be sure where Handwerker bedded down. But we think the phrases “Nathan Slept Here!” and “The hot dog was invented here!” have tourism potential. Shouldn’t the City be renovating Feltman’s Kitchen as a little museum and hot dog stand instead of tearing it down?
Asbestos abatement has already started according to“Capt Nemo,” who posted photos of the work site on the Coney Island Message Board. A notice lists the owner of the historic property referred to now as “Parcel A” as “NYCEDC, New York City Economic Development Corporation- Coney Island Amusements.” The Amphitheater building (site of Astroland’s Diving Bell), Westside building (Feltman’s kitchen), an electrical shed and a trailer are on the list of locations to be abated.
The photos reminded us that last January we took pix of the tiles in the old Feltman’s kitchen for our friend “Coney Islander.” It was the last day of Astroland before the property was to be turned over to Thor Equities. “Coney Islander” wanted a tile as a keepsake, but we couldn’t find a loose one. Our friend said the tiles were not only Coney Island history, but American history too: “The first hot dog might have fallen on that floor!” Of course “the first hot dog” was invented by Charles Feltman in 1867 when he was pushing a pie wagon. But the building is all that remains of Feltman’s in Coney Island. The floor definitely has character. It has a story to tell. We just had to figure out what it was. Sometimes if the full story isn’t known, an apocryphal one fills the vacuum. The floor looks so old it’s easy to imagine the original hot dog falling on it.
One year later, we have the full story. It’s titled “Nathan Slept Here!” In 1915, Nathan Handwerker, a Jewish immigrant from Poland, went to work for Feltman, who was by then the proprietor of a palatial sit-down restaurant at Surf Ave and 10th Street. Handwerker’s job was slicing hot dog rolls and delivering the franks to the guys who toiled at the grilling stations. The young man lived on free hot dogs and slept on the kitchen floor to save his $11 per week salary. At the end of the year, he’d saved $300 and opened a competing stand–5 cents a hot dog instead of 10 cents. That was the beginning of Nathan’s Famous and the downfall of Feltman’s, which went out of business in 1952. The property was sold to the Albert family and became the space-age Astroland Park in the early 1960s. For nearly 50 years, Feltman’s kitchen has survived as a workshop for Astroland’s rides.
Related posts on ATZ…
January 21, 2010: Demolition Alert: Dreamland Artist Club Mural on Feltman’s Bldg
January 11, 2010: Steeplechase Pool, Zip Coaster Sites to Be De-Mapped for Housing
October 9, 2009: A Rare Peek Inside Endangered Old Bank of Coney Island