Sunday, April 24, 2011

First Amusement Structure on Coney Island - Pavilion, Pier - 1845

The Pavilion at Coney Island.

Within a few days past Alonzo Reed, Esq. of the Fort Hamilton House, assisted by Capt. Beilby, as chief (and sole) engineer, has pitched an elegant and spacious tent, or pavilion, in the very midst of the territory of Coney Island ! Nay more; he has actually constructed a pier, which juts into the sea, and connects itself with the Pavilion by means of a long platform, upon which three can walk abreast if they do not carry too much sail, and one if top-heavy. Whether this bold movement received the concurrence of Governor Gil. Davis, or was performed in utter derogation of his authority, we cannot say ; but we take it for granted that a magistrate so powerful and renowned would scarcely permit an inroad of the sort upon his territory without giving it the sanction of that "imperial nod" in which himself and the "Grand Krout" excel. Be this as it may : the Pavilion is there, and desperate is the attack made through its agency upon the clams, quahaugs, and other shell fish with which the kingdom abounds.

The formal opening of the Pavilion took place on Saturday last, in presence of Mayor Talmage, Ald. Benson, and other representatives of the government of New York and Brooklyn, and about one hundred gentlemen who represented nobody but themselves. The steamboat Iolas, which had been set apart for the occasion, left New York at 5 o'clock, and reached the pier in about an hour. What took place on board we are unable to say, as we--in consideration of the high wind, and a constitutional antipathy to the white caps which result from it--took the overland route. Suffice to remark that all hands reached the spot in good season, and were cordially welcomed and liberally entertained (in advance of the chowder) by the proprietors. An excellent band of music had been provided for the occasion, and while the tables were being spread, kept a number of the more jovial doing waltzes and quadrilles.

About the dinner was announced, and shortly a feu de joie of corks and a ringing of steel upon china, gave notice that the signal was responded to. Choweder, in abundance, was immediately forthcoming, and dishes of roasted clams followed suit.--The excitement continued half an hour or more when some one--whose clams had been disposed of, and who did not remember that his fellows were less active gave--

"Our worthy host, Alonzo Reed, Esq.--long life and success to him."

Mr. Reed replied briefly, and concluded by giving--

"Success and prosperity to New York and Brooklyn."

Mayor Talmage replied. He thanked the gentleman (sic) for their warmth in acknowledging the toast, and said that although Brooklyn, with New York upon one side and the territory of Governor Davis on the other, had heretofore exhibited that repose which was peculiar to infancy, it was apparent that she had now cast off her leading strings and would henceforth walk by herself. [This allusion to ferry matters was understood in the right quarter, though not, we presume, by the company in general.] He concluded by proposing--

The Mayor and Corporation of New York....

Ald. Benson proposed "Success to New Jersey."...

...and the following--which is rather too good to be lost--by Dr. Houston:

The worship of Woman : the only idolatry which Heaven excuses--may we never be too great sinners....

Altogether, it was a very pleasant evening, and we trust that Messrs. Reed & Beilby will be amply rewarded for their enterprise. The steamboats Iolas and Wave ply thither half a dozen times a day ; and all who value the refreshing sea-breeze will of course make it a point to run down often, taking their wives and children along. If they do not care to remain all day in the Pavilion, there is ample room and verge enough on the long beach of pure sand, where the white caps are continually dancing around and beckoning the timid, as it were, to their healthful embrace ; and where the solemn music of the "deep, deep sea" is chanting a perpetual requiem to the millions that sleep in its embrace.

N.B.--Sportsmen can take their guns along if they are fond of sand-birds.

--Brooklyn Eagle, Monday, July 28, 1845

So per this article, the Pavilion actually opened Saturday, July 26, 1845.Brooklyn: An Illustrated History says the Pavilion actually opened in 1844, but this article doesn't seem to match with that.

It may be too much to claim this is the beginning of the amusements era at Coney Island (and the beginning of the end of its time as a natural getaway). But I think this might be a milestone. Charles Denson's Coney Island Lost and Found claims it is Coney Island's "first 'amusement'". On the other hand, The American Experience claims that Samuel Colt, inventor of the six-shooter, erected an "observation tower" on Coney that year. Of course, the timeline on that same site claims he erected a "telegraph tower," which doesn't sound like an amusement at all...

Follow-up story (interesting change of spelling there, and also interesting grammar).

Reid, of the Fort Hamilton House, gives a ball at Coney Island, in the Pavilion, this evening.--Nothing can be more agreeable, provided it don't (sic) rain.

--Brooklyn Eagle, Thursday, August 7, 1845

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