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Posts Tagged ‘Steeplechase Park’

This week, British Pathé announced the release of more than 85,000 newsreels from its archives to the public via YouTube. Among the films dating from the early 20th century though the 1970s are several documenting Coney Island. “Let’s Go Coney! Island” (1932) was shot inside Steeplechase Park’s Pavilion of Fun and provides a glimpse of patrons riding the Hoopla, Human Pool Table and Panama Slide. At Luna Park, Victor Zacchini, “The Human Cannonball,” is seen being shot from a cannon across the park’s lagoon as part of the season’s outdoor show.

Other newsreels show riders on the Witching Waves (1919) and the residents of New York Aquarium eating a “Whale Of A Lunch” (1964). (Update: We removed one of the films, Dizzy-Dive Land (1932) which is mis-ID’d as a Coney Island coaster but turns out to be Rye Playland’s Aeroplane (1923-1957), according to American Coaster Enthusiasts co-founder and historian Richard Munch.)

While the British Pathé archive is available online via their own website, going public on YouTube allows viewers to comment, share and embed the historic videos.

“The archive contains unique footage from both World Wars, the Titanic, boxing legend Muhammed Ali and more,” said British Pathé and Mediakraft Networks in a press release. “On top of this startling content, the material also paints vivid pictures of almost forgotten lifestyles, peculiar technical inventions and everyday life that British Pathé presented in newsreels, cinemagazines, and documentaries from 1910 until 1976.”

In “Do You Reverse” (1928), couples slide down a water chute together into Steeplechase Pool. Camera trickery is used to show this in reverse. Divers are also seen jumping out of the water and back onto boards.

Dorothy de Mar wins the title of Miss Venus from hundreds of other bathing beauties at Steeplechase Park in “Is She Your Choice?” (1931).

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Steeplechase Pier

Repairing Coney Island’s Sandy-damaged Steeplechase Pier, March 13, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Yesterday in Coney Island, for the first time we saw repair work being done on the Sandy-damaged Steeplechase Pier. The 1,000-foot-pier is a popular spot for fishing and for watching the Friday night fireworks, which begin on June 21st. In the past, it was also a favorite place for pier divers, who defied the “No Diving” signs for the thrill of the jump.

ATZ asked one of the workers when the pier would be open again. “We hope to have it open by July,” he said. When more info is available from the Parks Department we’ll post an update. Along with the Parachute Jump, which will be the centerpiece of the new Steeplechase Plaza, the rebuilt pier is a survivor of George C Tilyou’s Steeplechase Park.

UPDATE 4:17pm

ATZ received an email from Meghan Lalor of the Parks Department Press Office confirming the above info: “The entire Steeplechase Pier is being reconstructed. We expect to complete construction by July 4.” Yay and Hooray! Excited the pier will be open for fireworks watching for most of the summer. (Work was still underway on the pier as of Labor Day.)

UPDATE October 1, 2013

Over the weekend, word on the Boardwalk that Coney Island’s Steeplechase Pier would reopen today, Oct 1, almost but not quite true. After it’s inspected, sometime in October, a Parks Department spokesman tells ATZ. Soon!
Coney Island’s Steeplechase Pier to Reopen in October, ATZ, September 30, 2103

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Steeplechase Mural

Steeplechase Mural by Bonnie Siracusa, Mermaid Avenue Post Office, Coney Island. Photo by AmusingtheZillion.com

When Coney Island’s amusement area had a U.S. Post Office on Surf Avenue in Steeplechase Park, visitors mailed hundreds of thousands of postcards from the World’s Playground. Steeplechase closed in 1964 but Coney Island’s post office on Mermaid Avenue at 28th Street is worth a trip. It’s a bit of a hike from the amusement area but the interior is decorated with murals of Steeplechase, the Funny Place by artist Bonnie Siracusa. The Human Roulette Wheel, Parachute Jump and Pavilion of Fun are among the subjects along with the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone.

Detail of Steeplechase Mural by Bonnie Siracusa, Mermaid Avenue Post Office, Coney Island. Photo by AmusingtheZillion.com

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Club Atlantis

Cha Cha’s new outdoor Club Atlantis Bar, Coney Island. June 23, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Over the first weekend of summer, a few more Coney Island businesses opened their doors. As we reported on Saturday, Grimaldi’s new pizzeria on the north side of Surf Avenue served its first pies in Coney Island on Mermaid Day.  Across the street, Luna Park’s new state-of-the-art arcade, which takes only Luna cards–no spare change, please!– opened in the former Astroland Arcade. The surprise of surprises was to see Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park open for business after a four week delay. The Coney Island Rumor Mill had been speculating that the park, which was scheduled to open on Memorial Day Weekend, would never open. The Rumor Mill was wrong.

MegaWhirl

MegaWhirl Cars in Coney Island. May 6, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Jonathan Gordon, the designer of the MegaWhirl, a prototype ride that is the centerpiece of Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park, told ATZ that the delay in opening the park had nothing whatsoever to do with the rides. It was a matter of filing of paperwork with City agencies and bureaucratic red tape that kept the park from opening until now.

Friday’s ride inspection by the City’s ride inspector was cut short by a torrential rainstorm, but they received a checklist of what needed to be done, Gordon said. The inspection resumed on Saturday afternoon after the Mermaid Parade. The MegaWhirl and the majority of the other rides, including a Scrambler, Himalaya and Bumper Cars, passed inspection on Saturday and opened on Sunday. Only the Cobra and one of the kiddie rides need additional work before they’re ready to open.

Cobra Ride

Cobra Ride, Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park. June 23, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The cost of a single ride on the MegaWhirl is $5, according to Gordon. In early May, the ride designer and the manufacturer Larson International brought the MegaWhirl from the factory floor in Texas to make its world debut in Coney Island. As previously reported, the ride combines the thrill of the Tilt-A-Whirl and the Whip. The new ride’s arrival is another promising sign of Coney Island’s revival. Back in the day, the first models of new park or carnival rides would make their debut here.

The opening of Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park marks the return of rides to Thor Equities’ Stillwell Avenue lots for the first time since July 2008. Amusements existed here for more than 100 years until Joe Sitt bought the property and booted longtime ride and game operators in 2006. The Thor-owned Stillwell sites were used for a carnival in 2008, a flea market in 2009 and 2011, and remained vacant in 2010.

Mozzarepa and other street fair food at Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park, June 23, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On Saturday, the flea vendors of the BK Festival on the west side of Thor Equities’ Stillwell lot were once again doing business. On the east side of Stillwell, Cha Cha’s new outdoor Club Atlantis Bar was serving customers. Adjacent to Wonder Wheel Way and Scream Zone, the bar has a lot of space for table seating. It combines elements of Cha Cha’s former Club Atlantis on the Boardwalk with Beer Island minus the sand — for now.

Also open were a variety of food stands of the type one finds at street fairs. The food looked appetizing and less pricey than similar fare at Nathan’s. After seeing a friend enjoying a chicken shish-kebob, we tried one for $5 and would eat there again. Oddly enough, shish-kebob has been eliminated from the menus of the Boardwalk eateries Paul’s Daughter and Ruby’s Bar. The only other places you can get it in Coney Island are Gyro Corner, which has a location on the Bowery, and Pete’s Clam Stop on Surf.

Basketball Game

Ray’s Basketball Game, Coney Island. May 28, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Sadly, two Coney Island veterans previously displaced by redevelopment will not be able to open their businesses anytime soon. Ray’s Basketball, which is on the Steeplechase lot facing the Bowery, and Steve’s Grill House, currently on Thor’s 12th Street lot, got new locations that have literally left them up against a fence. The original plans for the new Steeplechase park and two satellite locations on Surf Avenue called for opening the fencing during business hours. It turns out that city regulations will not permit it.

Steve Bitetzakis’ Grill House has lost its location twice in the past year. On the Coney Island Boardwalk since 1993, Steve’s was one of the “Coney Island 8″ evicted by Zamperla. In February he sold his modular building to Zamperla, which is remodeling it and the former Beer Island to create the Place To Beach Bar. After purchasing a concession trailer, Steve’s opened for Easter on Thor Equities’ Stillwell East lot leased to the BK Festival. He lost his spot and was relocated to Surf when the festival closed to make way for the new Steeplechase Park.

Ray’s Basketball, which was moved from the Coney Island Arcade lot, is not on wheels and would require a crane to pick it up and turn it around 180 degrees. Anybody want to help these guys out?

Steve's Grill House

Up Against the Fence: Steve’s Grill House. June 22, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

UPDATE June 30, 2012

Ray's Basketball Coney IslandYay for Ray! His basketball game is no longer “fenced off” and will be able to do biz on 4th of July. Ray finally managed to open on Friday, June 29, for the first time this season after the chain link fence next to his awning was opened. Note the portable fencing placed in front of the basketball game, probably as per the letter of the law. Steve’s Grill House and the West 12th Street lot remain closed.

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John ‘Cha Cha’ Ciarcia’s Funny Face Logo, Coney Island.

The official name of the new amusement park set to open on Thor Equities Stillwell lot in Coney Island is Cha Cha’s Steeplechase – The Fun Place Amusement Park, according to an announcement yesterday by restaurant and club owner John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia. His Club Atlantis, which was evicted from the Boardwalk at the end of last season, is making a comeback on Stillwell, too. Given that signs briefly appeared on the lot with a Tilyouesque Funny Face resembling Cha Cha heralding the return of his Club Atlantis, perhaps we should have seen this branding campaign coming when we wrote “Exclusive: Goodbye Flea Market, Hello Steeplechase Park”(ATZ, March 5, 2012).

Funny Face

All smiles–The ‘funny face’ Steeplechase caricature, 1951. Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection.

George C. Tilyou’s “Funny Face,” variations of which are used to promote a slew of Coney Island products and businesses today, was original to his Steeplechase Park (1897-1964) and inspired New Jersey’s “Tillie.” The world-famous park was billed as “The Funny Place, Where 10,000 People Laugh at One Time.” Word on the street is that the new Steeplechase Park’s ride tickets will be emblazoned with the Coney Island Cha Cha logo. The lot was leased to the BK Festival for last summer’s flea market and this season’s combination of amusement rides, games and food, along with a smaller selection of merchandise vendors.

There will also be a Cha Cha’s Kiddie Park and Cha Cha’s Side Show Park on Thor’s Surf Avenue lots and Cha Cha’s outdoor Club Atlantis Bar on Stillwell. His former Boardwalk location, which is now leased to Tom’s Restaurant of Prospect Heights, was the site of the original Club Atlantis. The return of Cha Cha’s Club Atlantis and an outdoor bar resembling Beer Island marks the return of all of the bar and restaurant owners who were part of the “Coney Island Boardwalk 8″ evicted by Zamperla. It comes at a time that both Ruby’s Bar and Paul’s Daughter, who were offered leases after the initial evictions, are getting their renovated Boardwalk spaces ready to open on Memorial Day Weekend. Gyro Corner Clam Bar has a location at 12th Street and the Bowery. Steve’s Grill House moved to Thor’s Surf Avenue lot at Henderson Walk.

Cha Cha’s Coney Island Seafood Bar & Pizzeria in the former Surf N Turf Grill debuted on Easter Sunday. The Surf Avenue spot will have its grand opening on May 19 with special guest host Vincent Pastore of “The Sopranos” and a live performance by Killer Joe and the Mighty Lido Soul Quartet. Full press release below.

Cha Cha's

Cha Cha’s Surf Avenue Bar and Grill, Coney Island

CONEY ISLAND MAINSTAY “CHA CHA” BACK IN A BIG WAY

NEW AMUSEMENT PARK “MEGAWHIRL” DEBUT & PRESS CONFERENCE SET FOR MAY 24TH

Long time Coney Island personality John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia , who many know from his role on The Sopranos and his co-hosting of The Wiseguys Show on Sirius Radio, is back better than ever this year, just in time for the kick-off of the summer season, with several different businesses and amusement park lots, after being unceremoniously “booted” off the boardwalk last year in the very public rent/lease dispute with the giant Zamperla USA Corporation, which also affected several other longtime Coney Island business owners.

John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia and actor friend Tony Danza will preside over the official launch ceremony/press conference on Thursday, May 24th at 12 noon to announce the official grand opening of the new Cha Cha’s Coney Island Seafood Bar & Pizzeria (at 1315 Surf Ave.), the exclusive world debut of new amusement park ride The MegaWhirl, which was just developed and is the only one of its kind in the world, Cha Cha’s Steeplechase – The Fun Place Amusement Park, Cha Cha’s Kiddie Park and Cha Cha’s Side Show Park (3 parks in total), along with Cha Cha’s outdoor Club Atlantis Bar……all located along Stillwell Ave. between Surf Ave. and the boardwalk.

All these businesses combined now give John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia more business space and amusement park lot space than any other one business owner in Coney Island.

As part of the official launch ceremony/press conference on Thursday, May 24th at 12 noon, the exclusive new MegaWhirl ride, the first one of its kind in the world, is making its debut at the family friendly Cha Cha’s Steeplechase – The Fun Place Amusement Park, which has about eight rides in all, presented in association with BK Festivals. The MegaWhirl, a large flat ride, combines elements of the classic Whip with the Tilt-a-Whirl, and was developed jointly by Jonathan Gordon of Gordon Rides, LLC and Jeff Novotny of Larson International, Inc.” Gordon created the MegaWhirl as “a family thrill for kids, their parents, and everyone in between.”

All three parks……Cha Cha’s Steeplechase – The Fun Place Amusement Park, Cha Cha’s Kiddie Park and Cha Cha’s Side Show Park, along with Cha Cha’s outdoor Club Atlantis Bar (with a full bar) are all accessible from Stillwell Ave or from Surf Ave. Ciarcia wanted his ride parks to reflect the nostalgic, classic feel of the original Coney Island, so he brought in Artie Gillette at Castle Rock Amusements for some classic rides like the Retro-Scooter Bumper Cars, the old classic Himalaya, the Bavarian Fun House, etc.

In preparing for the 2012 summer season, Ciarcia first took over the old Coney Island Surf and Turf Grill on Surf Ave. and completely revamped the large restaurant space, which includes the only brick pizza oven in the Coney Island Boardwalk area, a full bar and has even built a stage for live music performances.

The space is now called Cha Cha’s Coney Island Seafood Bar & Pizzeria (at 1315 Surf Ave.) with a full menu serving brick oven pizza, various seafood dishes, linguini and clam sauce, mussels, Coney Island crab cakes, clams/oysters/shrimp at the raw bar and featuring live music several nights a week & special events. The new space also has an adjoining take-out cafe right next door, serving the brick oven pizza and various gelatos, frozen custard, frozen yogurt and Italian ices. Ciarcia plans to keep Cha Cha’s Coney Island Seafood Bar & Pizzeria open year round after this summer season.

The official Grand Opening Party for Cha Cha’s Coney Island Seafood Bar & Pizzeria will take place on Saturday, May 19th from 7pm on, with special guest host The Sopranos Vincent Pastore and a live performance by Killer Joe and the Mighty Lido Soul Quartet.

Memorial Day Weekend will feature Bobby Valli and the Jersey Boys Revue, doing a “Tribute to The Jersey Boys,” on Saturday, May 26th and Sunday, May 27th, with three shows a night at 8pm, 10pm and midnight. There is a $10 cover charge and a 2-drink minimum, or $25 per person for dinner.

** Cha Cha’s Coney Island Seafood Bar & Pizzeria is at 1315 Surf Ave. in Coney Island. Phone 718-946-1305 for reservations or more information.

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May 1, 2012: MegaWhirl Ride Prototype to Debut in Coney Island

April 19, 2012: Rides Return to Thor’s Stillwell Lots for 1st Time Since 2008

April 7, 2012: Cheers! First Drink at Relocated Cha Cha’s of Coney Island

March 5, 2012: Exclusive: Goodbye Flea Market, Hello “Steeplechase Park”

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MegaWhirl

Test Spin on the MegaWhirl, Coney Island. May 10, 2012. Photo © Eric Kowalsky. All Rights Reserved

Last week ATZ posted photos of the MegaWhirl ride, a prototype from Gordon Rides and Larson International, being assembled on Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. It was only a matter of time before somebody went for the ride’s first spin outside of the factory floor. Coney photographer Eric Kowalsky sent us these photos of workers assembling the MegaWhirl going for a test spin.

We’ve already written quite a bit about the MegaWhirl, a new ride described as combining the thrill of the Whip and the Tilt-A-Whirl, and look forward to going for our first spin! The ride is expected to debut at the BK Festival’s new Steeplechase Park in Coney Island on Memorial Day Weekend.

Test Spin on the MegaWhirl, Coney Island. May 10, 2012. Photo © Eric Kowalsky. All Rights Reserved

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May 1, 2012: MegaWhirl Ride Prototype to Debut in Coney Island

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Coney Island Grill House

Steve’s Grill House on Shore Hotel Lot, Surf Avenue. May 9, 2012. Photo © Eric Kowalsky. All Rights Reserved

Thor Equities’ Shore Hotel lot and adjoining Henderson Walk in Coney Island will be activated this summer with rides, concessions and other attractions, according to BK Festival promoter Will McCarthy. The first tenant pulled onto the empty lot on Monday. Steve Bitetzakis’ Grill House trailer was relocated from the BK Festival lot on Stillwell Avenue. The Grill House is now parked on the Surf Avenue side of the Shore Hotel lot at 1228 Surf, which goes through to Coney Island’s Bowery. The rides and other amusements are expected to open on Memorial Day Weekend.

As previously reported, Thor Equities’ Stillwell Avenue lots were leased to the BK Festival promoters for last year’s flea market and this year’s new Steeplechase Park. Thor’s Surf Avenue lots, including the former Shore Hotel site and the Bank of Coney Island lot at Surf and 12th, will also be part of the Coney Island amusement park slated to open Memorial Day Weekend.

Shore Hotel Lot and Henderson Walk

Paving Paradise By the Sea: Shore Hotel Lot and Henderson Walk , Coney Island. March 23, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

The Shore Hotel property has been vacant since Thor Equities demolished the circa 1903 hotel in December of 2010. The lot and the Walk were paved in March as seen in the above photo. Just to be clear–we’re talking about the Shore Hotel –here’s our flickr set “Coney Island’s Shore Hotel (Demolished)”– and not the landmarked Shore Theater, which is frequently misidentified as a hotel!

Henderson Walk, one of Coney Island’s historic walks, has been fenced off since the demolition of the Henderson Music Hall. The century-old Henderson Building and Shore Hotel were on opposite sides of the Walk. Thor Equities’ new building on the Henderson site remains vacant and encased in plywood.

On Easter Sunday, Steve Bitetzakis debuted his new Grill House trailer at the BK Festival on Stillwell Avenue next to Scream Zone. Located on the Coney Island Boardwalk since 1993, Bitetzakis was one of the “Coney Island 8″ evicted by Zamperla. In February he called off plans to have his modular building moved down Stillwell and instead sold it to Zamperla and purchased a concession trailer.

Steve's Grill House

Steve’s New Grill House at the BK Festival on Stillwell Avenue. April 8, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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April 19, 2012: Rides Return to Thor’s Stillwell Lots for 1st Time Since 2008

March 5, 2012: Exclusive: Goodbye Flea Market, Hello “Steeplechase Park”

April 22, 2011: Coney Island Has 64 Rides and 30 Weekends of Summer!

December 13, 2010: R.I.P Coney Island’s Shore Hotel, Henderson Next on Hit List

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