Saturday, March 24, 2007

Before Coney Island: Was New York's First Amusement Park in Williamsburg?

With all the controversy swirling around the impending "redevelopment" of Coney Island, we thought we should point out that in 1833, a waterside amusement park (so much as amusement parks even existed in those days) known as Raynor's Regatta Pavilion occupied the block bounded by North 6th Street, Kent Avenue, North 7th Street and the East River.

This paragraph from describes the park:
From just above Grand Street because of the soil conditions, willow trees flourished and the section was known as 'Willow Grove'. In the midst of it was a sort of tavern. RAYNOR'S Regatta Pavilion took an entire block on Kent between North 6th & 7th, running down to the rivers edge, partly on a bluff. There was a garden and a pleasure railway of wood that ran in a circle, refreshments of all kinds were served, a place for regattas.

The photo above is not Raynor's - its a "Pleasure Railway" (an early precursor of the roller coaster) that was part of Colonel John Stevens' Elysian Fields complex on the Hudson River shore in Hoboken, NJ. The lithograph dates to 1833 - the same year this map of Williamsburgh was published, showing the Pleasure Railway at Raynor's on Kent Avenue. So in our quasi-scientific logic, we'll surmise that its a pretty decent representation.

As best we can determine, Raynor's Regatta Pavilion was "redeveloped" in the late 1800s to make way for the real train tracks of the Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal, which itself was "redeveloped" as a Sheriff's Impound Lot in the late 1990's, and stands ready for its next role as part of Douglaston Development's The Edge residential highrise complex.

And so, after taking two very different paths, here in 2007 both Brooklyn amusement parks face a similar fate.

Site of Raynor's Pleasure Regatta, 2007 [Flickr]


At 5:19 PM, Blogger Thane said...

They had a roller coaster

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