The Heyday of Coney Island
With easy access from New York City, Coney Island was a major vacation destination between the 1880s and World War II. In its heyday, nothing was too eccentric, too big, or too outlandish. Three major parks—Luna Park, Steeplechase Park, and Dreamland—all competed for visitors, taking advantage of the public’s fascination with the unknown, from distant lands to tragic disasters.
Over 2,000 people were employed at Dreamland’s Fighting the Flames, where performers reenacted what it was like to be a firefighter—from hitching live horses to the fire engine to extinguishing a real fire. They also made dramatic rescues as trapped “victims” jumped from a blazing building’s windows to the ground.
Midget City, or the Lilliputian Village, was Dreamland’s miniature town populated by over 300 little people. Villagers actually lived on-site and functioned as a community in their built-to-scale world. They had their own police and fire departments and even performed their own acts, such as the Tom Thumb Circus.
THE IGORROTE VILLAGE
Feeding into the fear and amazement of the unknown, one of Luna Park’s most popular attractions was the Igorrote Village. Imported Filipino tribesmen, women, and children lived in a replica village and presented a sensationalized version of their customs. As headhunting was not an option, the Igorrotes dined on a daily dog feast, slaughtered before the crowd and cooked in a large pot.
This boat ride entered Dante’s Inferno and featured a flaming whirlpool, which seemed to suck riders down into the depths of Hell. Unfortunately, (and ironically), Hell Gate is to blame for the great Dreamland fire of 1911, burning the park to the ground.
ANOTHER YEAR, ANOTHER ALL-NEW ANNUAL!
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