Posts Tagged ‘Childs Restaurant’

The New Childs Restaurant

The New Childs Restaurant on the Riegelmann Boardwalk, August 1924. Eugene L. Armbruster Collection, New York Public Library

Earlier this week, NY1 reported the excellent news that the City plans to develop the former Childs Restaurant building on the Boardwalk and an adjacent lot into an entertainment complex. It will be the new home of Borough President Marty Markowitz’s popular Seaside Summer Concerts. First we felt surprise, since the building was not on the market, and then a mixture of elation and relief.

It’s been sad to see Coney Island’s terracotta palace by the sea boarded up for the past few years after being enlivened by the Mermaid Parade Ball and Lola Star’s Dreamland Roller Rink. Yet it’s hard to pass by without taking photos of its ornamental ships, seashells, fish and King Neptunes. When a tourist recently tweeted a photo describing the Childs as “the ruins,” we didn’t have the heart to respond. The 1923 Spanish Colonial Revival style building was designated a City landmark in 2003.


Detail of terracotta ornamentation on Childs Building. July 30, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Luckily, the City has the funds to bring the building back to life since the Borough President will be able to use $50 million already set aside for a $64 million amphitheater in Seaside Park that was halted by a lawsuit. This is great news because if the money wasn’t spent by the time his third term ends in December 2013, it would go back into the public coffers and be lost to Coney Island.

Taconic Investment Partners, which owns approximately four blocks west and north of MCU Park, also holds a 99-year lease on the Childs building. The NY1 report didn’t say whether the City would acquire the lease from the development company or buy the building from the owner. Back in 2007, Brooklyn’s blogfather Bob Guskind described Taconic as “Coney Island’s Sleeper Megadeveloper” and it’s still an apt description. The developer began buying property in 2005 but has yet to develop anything in Coney Island.

“Taconic is in the process of evaluating the economics of a planned development for some or all of our holdings,” according to a web page about their “Coney Island, North and South Ventures.” That’s been the message for the longest time, probably because the economy and inadequate infrastructure put a dent in their plans. The 2009 rezoning allows Taconic to build nearly 2,000 residential units and more than 200,000 square feet of retail west and north of MCU. A restaurant and catering hall were part of the original plans for the Childs building. Dreamland Roller Rink operated rent-free for two years until 2010, when the high cost of insurance caused Taconic to shutter the space.

Dreamland Roller Rink

Lola Staar’s Dreamland Roller Rink. August 2, 2008. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

According to NY1, the lot west of the building will also be developed as part of the entertainment complex. The City-owned lot is the community garden pictured below. Right now it’s filled with tomatoes and sunflowers. Taconic owns the land east of the building, the former Washington Baths site. Thor Equities bought the vacant lot from Horace Bullard for $13 million and then flipped it to Taconic for an exorbitant $90 million because both parties were sure the City would rezone it for residential.

The Washington Baths site has been the temporary home of the Seaside Concert Series for the past two summers and for the Ringling Circus in 2009 and 2010. During the rest of the year, it is used as a school bus parking lot.

UPDATE September 26, 2013:

The City’s plan to convert the former restaurant into an amphitheater for live concerts is now working its way through City Planning and the City Council approval, though it was voted down by the community board. “Clock Ticking on Plan for the Landmark Childs Building,” ATZ, September 25, 2013.

community garden

Coney Island Community Garden adjacent to Childs Building. July 30, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr


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Childs Restaurant Shenango China Mug via Restaurant Ware Collectors Network

Childs Restaurant Shenango China Mug via Restaurant Ware Collectors Network

The terra cotta palace on the Boardwalk at 21st Street that was Childs Restaurant is one of Coney Island’s official New York City landmarks. Ornamented with fanciful nautical motifs of sea creatures, seashells, ships and King Neptune, the building remains a favorite of photographers, though it’s now vacant.

Since the restaurant closed more than 60 years ago, we’ve never had the pleasure of dining there. Yesterday we came across this delightful vintage coffee cup on Eater, where Greg Moribito posted “Remembering Childs, a Gem from Coney Island’s Golden Age.” His tribute features an abundance of photos, ephemera and historical info. But it was the 1930s Shenango china cup top marked “Childs” and marked on the inside with “This is ‘Beechnut’ Coffee” in script that caught our eye.

The cup must be a rarity because a web search for “Shenango China” and “Childs Restaurant” turns up mostly children’s china. Just to be clear, we’re talking about the Childs Restaurant, not the Children’s Restaurant. Here’s to a hot steaming cup of joe in a Childs cup! If you have one to spare, let us know.


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May 29, 2009: Astroland Star from Coney Island’s Space-Age Theme Park Donated to the Smithsonian

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Freak Bar View

Coney Island USA New Freak Bar & Museum Gift Shop designed by Philip Tusa, Architect and photographed by Paul Warchol; Freak Bar View. Photo via Philip Tusa Architect’s flickr

We’re not surprised to find Coney Island USA’s Freak Bar among the more than 60 architecturally interesting new bars profiled in a coffee table art book. Editor Andrew Hall describes 21st Century Bars, published this month by Images Publishing, as a globe-trotting “journey to some of this century’s most interesting bars.”

Designed by architect Philip Tusa and completed in October 2008, the Freak Bar has been a shining oasis on Surf Avenue amid the desecration of swaths of Coney Island by real estate speculation. What a pleasure it has been to meet our freaky friends at the bar on Mermaid Day and New Year’s Day!

Of the 1917 Childs Restaurant Building, which is owned by Coney Island USA and currently under consideration for New York City landmark designation, Tusa has this to say in the book…

Of historical note, hidden underneath aged plywood signs were the beautiful arches that were part of the historic facade; these are now revealed and incorporated in all their splendor. Decoratively, the ‘Coney-esque’ style has been successfully employed. Historically, Coney Island USA has sought to evoke an atmosphere that signifies the nostalgia that Coney is to all people worldwide, whether they remember it personally or have just heard of it.

Cheers to Coney Island and Coney Island USA!

The Freak Bar, Coney Island USA, 1208 Surf Avenue, Coney Island, 718-372-5159

Coney Island USA says: “Currently the Freak Bar hours are Thursdays and Fridays 8pm to ?? (1am-ish) for Burlesque At The Beach. Saturdays and Sundays 12pm to ?? (10 pm or later depending on customer flow.) The hours will change after Memorial Day, and we will be open seven days a week. The earliest we will open any given day is Noon, and the closing time will depend on the typical factors of a Coney Island day.”

21st Century Bars, edited by Andrew Hall, Published by Images Publishing, 2010. Hardcover, $50

Coney Island USA Freak Bar

Coney Island USA New Freak Bar & Museum Gift Shop designed by Philip Tusa, Architect and photographed by Paul Warchol; Exterior View looking toward the Coney Island Wonder Wheel amusement ride. Photo via Philip Tusa Architect’s flickr

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