Once upon a time, long before Thor Equities, the Coney Island Cyclone, and even before Rabbi Abraham Abraham came into the world, there was Dreamland, an aptly-named Coney Island amusement park, which served as one of the area’s purveyors of “(relatively) high-class entertainment, with elegant architecture, pristine white towers and some educational exhibits along with the rides and thrills.”
While its popular freakshows were the biggest attraction, there were also curiosities such as a Lilliputian village with 300 dwarf inhabitants, a fully-functional railway zig-zagging through a Swiss alpine village, and gondolas sailing through a make-believe Venetian canal, and more… until the early morning of May 27, 1911, when it all went up in flames and Dreamland was destroyed.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the blazing inferno that laid to waste one of Coney’s most popular amusement parks, located between Surf Avenue and the Atlantic Ocean (where the the New York Aquarium and the West 8th Street station now stand), the Coney Island History Project — which brings educational awareness of Coney Island to the masses — is launching its season, May 27 at 12:15 p.m. with a Dreamland walking tour led by historian Charles Denson. The tour will be offered again May 29 at 12:15 p.m.
The Friday walking tour will offer a special preview of the History Project’s exhibit on the Dreamland Fire Centennial, featuring historic artifacts, maps, ephemera and films. According to Denson, before and after images of the fire will be juxtaposed with the site as it is today and how it developed over the last 100 years.
The Coney Island History Project exhibition center is open Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends. Admission is free. They are located at 3059 West 12th Street, just off the Boardwalk, in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. Tickets for walking tours are $20 and may be reserved on the group’s online reservation website.