Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricanes on Coney Island - 1877, 1890s

Just thought these were timely. I'm not certain if these were really "hurricanes" as we would call them today.

Stay safe, Coney Island!

The Effect of One at Coney Island.

A Yacht Missing--Tables and Chairs Upset, Crockery Broken, Roofs Damaged, Bathing Houses Thrown Over--Narrow Escape of Some of the Bathers--Hail Stones of Unusual Size.

Last evening, at a quarter to seven o'clock, after a glorious sunset, the visitors at Coney Island were preparing to enjoy themselvis (sic) by the surf, on the beach and at the different hotel piazzas. About five minutes later the sky was overcast and threatening clouds loomed up in the distance, while fitful gusts of wind swept across the ocean and scattered the surf in spray. One puff of wind succeeded the other so swiftly that half of the people who were bathing at the time could barely get to their houses, dress and reach the hotels before the storm commenced in its fury. At first it was supposed there was going to be a heavy shower; then, as the ominous puffs of wind came, some of the Coney Island mariners predicted that there was going to be a "squall," and it was not five minutes after this last prediction when these ancient mariners sought the shelter of the hotels and restaurants and barred the doors securely against the fury of the storm.

It came up so suddenly that it caught some of the bathers in the surf, and the breakers changed in a couple of minutes to fierce and angry volumes of water, which swept in upon the beach with a roar and threw the sand away ahead of them. Not a few of the bathers, especially the women, were thoroughly frightened, and it was with much difficulty that they managed to combat against the undertow and gain the shore, and when they did they sought the shelter of the bathing houses as quickly as possible. Most of them got dressed and ran to the nearest hotels, but some were left behind, and one or two of them in a most pitiable though at the same time…


Several of the bathing houses were clean overturned, and in four or five of these were ladies who were in the act of dressing, and their fright must have been intense as the frail box in which they were securely locked toppled over and lade them in a prostrate and helpless condition. It was at this time that the bold and hardy men of the sea showed their pluck. One lady, who was on Vanderveer's sloop, was waiting for her husband to come out of the water, and after the storm arose and he did not appear she became alarmed and requested one of the storm tried mariners to go out and search for him. She was for awhile in an agony of trouble for fear he had been drowned, and she besought that some of these men would go out and see where he was. Not one of them would as much as lift the latch of the door to let in a puff of the wind whistled through the keyholes and made the casements rattle. (???) On the other hand several gentlemen who were in the water at the time, seeing that a general fright had taken possession of the ladies, did all in their power to get them out of the surf and see them to their respective bathing houses. Prominent among these gentlemen, who extended timely aid was Mr. Lang, of Lang & Nan, and he it was who was the first to rescue the imprisoned captives when the bathing houses overturned, and one or two of the ladies, it is said, were very far from being properly clad at the time.


Special Officer Williams, of Gravesend, who was on the beach at the time, saw three ladies in the surf near Tilyous hotel. One of them was out of her depth and the others were terror stricken for fear she would be drowned. Without a minutes (sic) hesitation Williams plunged into the water, not waiting even to remove any portion of his uniform, breasted the billows and rescued the lady and got her two friends safely ashore. They all sought shelter at Tilyous. The reporter, who was unable to see Officer Williams, could not learn the ladies names, but the officer noted the part of a brave and gallant man and deserves credit for it.

When the storm was at its worst it did considerable damage. At Cable's, Vandover's, Feltman's and other large hotels the chairs and tables were all blown around at a very lively rate. It had just urned dusk, and the various hostelries had illuminated their places. In many instances the glass in the lamps was broken, while almost every light was extinguished all over the Island. The canvas tent occupied by the London Marionettes was taken clean up in a second, and chairs, seats, piano, stage and everything were thrown in a confused mass on Endre's stoop and under the spines which support his pavilion. The new depot of the Manhattan Beach Railroad which was reported as having been levelled to the ground, was not injured to the extent of $200. About $150, it is believed, will cover all damages done. Some of the exposed portions of it, which is now but partially erected, were destroyed to a certain extent but not to amount to much. The government building was injured about $50. The Summer gardens in Feltman's were damaged slightly, but he lost quite a considerable amount of light glassware, which was blown off his shelving.

Judge Walsh and Assemblyman Shanley, who were at Cable's, report that the storm for a while was terrific. Waiters were running here and there trying to save tables from being overturned which had crockery and glassware on them. Napkins were flying all over, and could be had for the gathering, and the sturdy mariners clapped their hats on their heads and looked through the window at the destruction which "the toughest storm they had ever seen" was making. They varied this occupation by occasionally taking a drink and relating what they knew of previous tornados which had swept over the Island.


is said to have fallen very lively for about five minutes, but this changed into huge rain drops, which pattered everywhere, and made distinct holes in the sand as they fell. One young lady named McVickers was running into the Atlantic Garden from some of the adjacent bathing houses. She carried her hat wrapped up id (sic?) her shawl, and one of these hailstones, which were doubtless of unusual size, happened to strike her right in the eye, and injured that organ to a great extent. It became swollen and badly inflamed in a few minutes. She was attended to at the Atlantic Garden by a physician who happened to be at Engeman's.

The music stand in front of the Manhattan Beach Hotel, which had just been lighted up, was somewhat damaged, and Graffula lost a quantity of valuable music, which he had composed himself, and which was written by him in ink. It will cost him considerable time and trouble to replace it. It was a very fortunate thing that no person, so far as known, was hurt in any way. The principal damage done was by the wind, which cleaned half the flagstaffs and sent signs floating all over the Island. It is said that just before the storm got at its worst


out at sea, and during one of the vivid flashes of lightning it is alleged that some person saw her keel upward, or thought they did, but after the storm had ceased, not the sign of a yacht could be seen anywhere around, and there are who were at Coney Island that are certain in their own minds that the yacht was capsized and sunk, and of course believe that all on board were drowned. Some anxiety was manifested for the Rockaway steamers, but fortunately they had all got to their destination on their return trip from the beach. The Columbia was about the last and the storm did not break until she was safely in the East River.

It is impossible to estimate the damage that has been done, but under the circumstances it is not large. One thing is very certain, however, that the beach was never cleared of people so effectively and in so short a time before. Many people got wet through, and a few lost hats, handkerchiefs and vails (sic?), but the great majority, who, like the Coney Island sailors, were well housed, enjoyed the thing highly, and looked upon the whole as a good joke. A few bathing houses were smashed at Norton's Hotel, on Coney Island Point, but no serious damage was done. In an hour after the storm first commenced things were all quiet again and the people were promenading around, enjoying themselves as best they could and speaking of their recent experience as a thing of the past.

--The Brooklyn Daily Eagle,Saturday, August 11, 1877
Different storm, below.

Counting the Damage Done by Wind and Rain.

Fences Wrecked and Windows Broken All Over Brooklyn--Serious Injury Done to Beach and Buildings at Coney Island--The Walker Still Ashore--Telegraph and Telephone Lines Badly Damaged--The Sound Wind-swept.
The first thing Weather Forecaster Dunn did this morning was to run up the hurricane signals, which were displayed on the tower of the weather bureau, in New York, for the first time, yesterday. These signals will be continued until the storm abates…

Coney Island Suffered Some Serious Damage.

The high tide at 3 o'clock this morning coupled with high westerly winds continued the devastation commenced by the hurricane yesterday. All through the old town of Gravesend fences and trees were blown down. In Washington cemetery a number of tombstones were overthrown, two of them being smashed into pieces.

Part of the trestle of the old bicycle railway was blown away and about one hundred feet of fence in the Culver railway depot were torn down. The roof of Feltman's big hotel adjoining the carrousel on Surf avenue was lifted by the wind, and the second story of the building is a wreck. A portion of the new pavilion being built by Henderson was blown down. Three of Scovill's bath houses and all of Walsh's new bathing houses were washed out to sea. The water has made further inroads at Brighton Beach and Sea Breeze avenue, and has again flooded the Brighton race track. The wind is still from the west, blowing fiercely so that more damage is expected from the next high tide…

--The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 7, 1896

There's a New York Times article on that storm here.

Another High Water Record on Coney Island Shore.

The Hurricane on Its Progress Seaward Stirs Up the Ocean and Causes Additional Wreckage Along the Coast. Brighton Beach Property Flooded--Estimated Loss of $50,000 on Brooklyn's Shore--Big Seas at Cape May
A tide, even higher than yesterday's, renewed the attacks upon Coney Island property this morning between the hours of 7 and 9 o'clock, and further damage was done to the many frame pavilions along the ocean front. The sun rose on a line of wreckage extending from Brighton Beach nearly to Norton's Point, much of which was caused by last night's tide and wind. No property along the entire water front has suffered so much damage as has the Brighton Beach Hotel. There old ocean has made great inroads and on the western end of the hotel grounds nearly a hundred square feet of land has been washed out. The promenade following the line of the bulkhead along the entire front of the property has been ripped up and, although the main bulkhead has withstood the assaults of the breakers, the sea washes over it and damages the property almost as badly as if there were no bulkhead at all…

About 9 o'clock the tide changed and as it became lower evidences of the destruction it had caused could be seen all along the line. All highways leading to the Island were flooded as they were yesterday and the miles of meadow land were covered by a vast sheet of water. When the tide was at its highest the water lapped the tracks of the West End Railroad, between Coney Island Creek and the Island, and the railroad bridges were only a foot above the water…

The woman who was reported yesterday morning to have been carried into the sea at Coney Island was Mrs. Freda Hoop, wife of Andrew Hoop, who was occupying apartments in Garland's bathing pavilion. Mr. Hoop went off to work yesterday morning and about an hour after he had gone Mrs. Hoop found her home surrounded by water while the building was shaking almost continuously. Mrs. Hoop became frightened and called to some men who were working near by to help her out of the house. The men procured a ladder and mounting to the roof of an adjoining building Mrs. Hoop and her baby were taken out. She could not be prevailed upon to return to her abode after the tide had fallen and during the day she had her belongings removed to other apartments, a block away from the water.

The damage among the West End was estimated this morning at $50,000.

--The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Tuesday, October 26, 1897

This appears to mostly be talking about Brighton Beach, but I imagine it's a good description of 1890s beaches in storms in general. If you read the full article there's accounts of swimmers staying out in the storm (!) and clinging to the rope I guess they had there for bathers to use as support?


Trolley Cars Stalled at Various Points. Passengers Injured in Two Collisions.


The fierce hurricane that swept across New York City yesterday afternoon between 4 and 5 o'clock, bringing with it an electrical storm cloud that poured rain and hail in torrents, wrought disaster where it passed. Three deaths were reported to the police during the early part of the night and unauthenticated stories of other victims of the storm came in from the seaside resorts, where the elements raged most furiously…

At Coney Island and Brighton Beach there were many thousands who had gone down to take a cooling plunge in the surf. All of the bathers got a shower bath that wasn't on the programme and wasn't enjoyed. The storm came up suddenly and the wind blowing at nearly seventy miles an hour sent the sand across the beaches like bird shot from a choke bore gun. The sand peppered through the thin bathing suits and gave the bathers a sensation something like sharp needles pricking into the skin. The rush for the bathing pavilions was a grand stampede in which big men trampled over the little men and the little men ran over the women, who in turn scattered the children right and left in the flight.

"You'd better run fast or you'll get wet," shouted the onlookers from the sheltered verandas to the bathers, as the latter tore across the sands with salt water and fresh pouring in commingled torrent from their bodies.

Everybody talked about getting wet as if it had been perfectly dry in the surf before the storm came. The wind was blowing a fierce gale and very few were bold enough to go inside of the bathing pavilions, as everyone expected the weak structures to blow out into the ocean the next moment. For nearly an hour the wet crowds were jammed together like baskets full of drowned kittens…

When the thousands of Bath Beach bathers were permitted by the storm to go to their bath houses they found there a situation that inspired the men to say wonderful and divers things about the weather and everything else they could think of to anathemize. In many of the bath rooms the street clothing that had been left while the owners were bathing had been thoroughly soaked and it was simply jumping from the frying pan into the fire to change the wet bathing suits for the wetter street clothes. So that is how it happened that several hundre seaside enthusiasts were seen trudging homeward through mud and slush knee deep, lugging their street garb and attired in bathing suits. The top of some of the bath houses was blown off and others leaked so badly that it was impossible for clothing to keep dry.

--The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sunday, August 6, 1899

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