Dreamland Amusement Park

Dreamland_tower_1907Dreamland was an ambitious amusement park at Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York City from 1904 to 1911. It contained primarily freak shows.

The park’s founder was William H. Reynolds, a state senator at the time. He designed the park to compete with Luna Park, which opened in 1903. Dreamland was supposed to be refined and elegant in its design and architecture, compared to Luna Park with its many rides and chaotic noise.

Reynolds purchased a 15-acre parcel at Surf Avenue and West Eighth Street on which to build the park, using proxy buyers in order to hide his real ambitions for the lot. Once he bought the site, he used political power to demolish West Eighth Street in order to expand the lot. Today, the site is near the site of the West Eighth Street subway station opposite Culver Depot, the then-terminal of New York City Subway’s BMT Brighton Line and BMT Culver Line. The site is now the location of the New York Aquarium and the adjacent subway station.

Dreamland was supposed to host relatively high-class entertainment, with elegant architecture, pristine white towers, and some educational exhibits along with the rides and thrills. It was reputed to have one million electric light bulbs illuminating and outlining its buildings—quite a novelty at the time. Opened on May 15, 1904, Dreamland was a park in which everything was reputed to be bigger and more expansive than in neighboring Luna Park, even boasting 4 times as many light bulbs than Luna Park.

Among Dreamland’s attractions were a railway that ran through a Swiss alpine landscape, imitation Venetian canals with gondolas, a “Lilliputian Village” with three hundred dwarf inhabitants, and a demonstration of firefighting in which two thousand people pretended to put out a blazing six-story building fire every half-hour. However, many rides were imitations of Luna Park’s. There were also two Shoot-the-Chutes with two ramps that could handle 7,000 hourly riders, a scenic railway called Coasting Through Switzerland, gondola rides through a nighttime model of Venice, a miniature railroad, and a simulated submarine ride. The side shows were owned by the Dicker family, who also owned the hotel next to the park. There was also a display of baby incubators, where premature babies, triplets who were members of the Dicker family, were cared for and exhibited. The doctors advised them of the new invention, but they could not use it because incubators were not approved for use in hospitals, so the triplets were placed in the side show, which was allowed. Two survived and lived on to have full lives until their death.

In a bid for publicity, the park put famous Broadway actress Marie Dressler in charge of the peanut-and-popcorn stands, with young boys dressed as imps in red flannel acting as salesmen. Dressler was said to be in love with Dreamland’s dashing, handlebar-mustachioed, one-armed lion tamer who went by the name of Captain Jack Bonavita. Bonavita, who commanded lions in the Bostock animal arena, had one arm amputated when his hand was severely clawed by one of the lions, and a blood infection spread through that hand.

Source: Wikipedia


Comments are closed