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Landmarks-to-Be by the Sea

coney island usa building

Even though it’s not yet summer, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has Coney Island on its mind. On Tuesday, March 23, the LPC will hold a public hearing on two important historic buildings in Coney Island: the Shore Theater and the former Childs restaurant on Surf Avenue (now home to the arts organization, Coney Island USA).

In response to the hearing’s announcement, MAS President Vin Cipolla said: “These two buildings are incredibly intact remnants of early 20th-century Coney Island. The former Childs restaurant, now owned and invigorated by the arts organization, Coney Island USA, is a wonderful example of how Coney Island’s historic resources can be part of a revitalized Coney Island. The Shore Theater, although currently in disuse, has the potential to be a great performance space in Coney Island and to enhance the area’s revitalization. I commend the Landmarks Preservation Commission for taking steps to protect these two important Coney Island buildings.”

Built in 1917 at 12th Street and Surf Avenue, the former Childs restaurant was the first of two locations that the cafeteria-style restaurant chain opened in Coney Island (the other Childs restaurant was built in 1923 along the Boardwalk and was designated a New York City landmark in 2003). The Spanish-Revival style building was later home to the Blue Bird Casino and David Rosen’s Wonderland Circus Sideshow. Coney Island USA has occupied space in the historic building since the mid-1990s. With the help of New York City, the organization was able to purchase the building in 2007 and undertake a restoration of the building’s ground floor storefronts. Today, Coney Island USA operates its Coney Island Museum, Sideshow by the Seashore, Freak Bar, and other programs out of the entire building. For more information on the history of this building, see From Food to Freak Shows: Coney Island’s Unsung Childs Restaurant.  Also, check out MAS’ statement before the LPC in support of the designation of the Childs Restaurant.

shore theater coney island

The Shore Theater was built in 1925 at one of Coney Island’s most prominent locations, the corner of Stillwell and Surf Avenues, across the street from both the then-newly-opened subway station and Nathan’s hotdog stand. It was designed as a combination office building and 2,400-seat theater for live performances and movies. Vacant for decades, the protection of the entire building, including both the palazzo-style front and the unadorned theater exterior, is important to allow for the future reuse of the building as a new performance venue for Coney Island. For more information on the history of the theater see, The Shore Theater: A Sure Part of Coney Island’s Future? and Now Showing at the LPC: Coney Island’s Shore Theater. Also, check out MAS’ statement before the LPC in support of the designation of the Shore Theater.

Protecting Coney Island’s historic resources like the Childs building on Surf Avenue and the Shore Theater was one of the recommendations MAS made during the rezoning process. Both buildings are deserving of landmark status to ensure their place in Coney Island’s future. For information on Tuesday’s hearing, visit the LPC’s website.