When Henry M. Henderson died in Los Angeles in 1909, his obituary said “Mr. Henderson bought property in Coney Island thirty years ago and started one of the first amusement places. He acquired a large fortune and the family now owns all of the property between Henderson’s Walk and Stratton Walk, extending from Surf Avenue to the sea.” Henderson’s establishment began as a restaurant at Bowery and Henderson Walk in 1881. His son Frederick managed the family’s Coney Island empire, which included a music hall featuring vaudeville acts and a bathing pavilion at the foot of Sea Beach Walk.
After we wrote about a vintage coffee cup from Childs Restaurant last month, a reader sent us this photo of a toothpick holder from Henderson’s. Lisa Ramaci collects memorabilia of early New York, including chinaware and utensils from restaurants and hotels. “You will see it was broken at some point in its past – I picked it up for a quarter probably 20 years ago in a small antique store in Manhattan,” Ramaci told ATZ. “They had a ‘jumble’ table in front with stuff they considered valueless. Little did they know that even in the condition it’s in I consider it a treasure. Anyway, hope you enjoy it, only wish I could have eaten there – and at Childs!”
The souvenir made in Austria for J. R. Gibney is indeed a rare find. We’ve seen only one other example. The auction info site worthpoint has photos of a Henderson’s toothpick holder that sold for $115.49 on eBay in 2009. It appears to be in very good condition. But we find it poignant that Lisa’s souvenir of Henderson’s was so carefully mended after having been broken. “It obviously meant something sentimental to whoever stole it from the restaurant way back when,” she says. “A great example of an earlier time, when things were repaired and re-used rather than thrown out and replaced. And thank God for that!”
Sadly, the last remnant of Coney pioneer Henry Henderson’s empire isn’t being rehabbed and re-used. The building is currently being demolished by Thor Equities. On Friday there was one wall left standing. Henderson’s will be gone in a couple of days. A few weeks ago we posted Charles Denson’s video tribute to the Henderson Theater. In lieu of an obituary, we decided to write about the survival of this humble but treasured memento.
For more info on the history of the building, see “Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall” (ATZ, April 29, 2010).
UPDATE 3:20 pm
RIP Henderson Music Hall. Just got word the last wall of this historic Coney Island building was demolished this afternoon. Bad things have happened in threes in Thor’s Coney Island over the past few months: The demolition of the Bank of Coney Island, the Shore Hotel, and finally the Henderson Music Hall. Now when tourists exit Stillwell Terminal, their first sight of Coney Island will be one of Thor Equities infamous empty lots!
Related posts on ATZ…
December 19, 2010: Rare & Vintage: Original Coney Island Motordrome Bike
December 4, 2010: Artifact of the Day: Vintage Coffee Cup from Childs Restaurant
November 16, 2009: Rare & Vintage: Coney Island Sideshow Banner by Dan Casola