Luna Park

Brooklyn, New York | C.1903

Photo Credit: Paul Hiller

A hop, skip and a Q-train ride from Manhattan, Coney Island became a paradise by the city in the late 1800s. Home to luxury beachfront resorts and the world’s first enclosed amusement park, some called it “heaven at the end of a subway ride,” others “electric Eden” … but everyone knew it as Coney Island. Thrill seekers came to the seaside in droves, but it wasn’t until the turn of the century that things really took off.

In the 1890s, Frederick Thompson and Elmer Dundy purchased the famed Sea Lion Park, only to tear the whole thing down. The country remained enamored with Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, and Thompson and Dundy were determined to reimagine the fair’s allure in the form of a park that defied reality.

What sprung from the ground was nothing short of a revelation. Luna Park opened in 1903, and was unlike anything the world had ever seen. The Electric City by the Sea dazzled the imagination with its central lagoon and elaborate sprawl of spired buildings, lit up at night to enchant the crowds.

The park’s centerpiece was the Trip to the Moon ride, where passengers stepped aboard airship Luna III for a journey to the cosmos. Visitors could also hop aboard rides that would transport them to the North Pole (which featured its own ice manufacturing facility), go underwater to visit the resident mermaids, or befriend the many elephants and camels roaming the grounds.

For decades, Luna Park enchanted visitors, drawing millions from around the globe and inspiring dozens of imitation parks – ultimately becoming the most influential amusement park of all time. Sadly, after a series of fires destroyed the grounds, the park closed its doors in the 1940s. In 2010, a new Luna Park opened its doors in a nearby location, hoping to recreate the magic of the past.

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