The History of Coney Island

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Maryna Yakubova The History of Coney Island as a Workers’ Playground. Following European settlement, New York State and New York City were originally a Dutch colony and settlement, named New Amsterdam. The Dutch name for the island — originally Konijneneiland in modern Dutch spelling — precedes the similar English name, Coney Island, and translates as "Rabbit Island". Coney Island had many and diverse rabbits, and rabbit hunting prospered until resort development eliminated their habitat. Since the early 1800s, Coney Island, “playground of the world,” has played many roles in the lives and imagination of New Yorkers and the world. From its beginnings as a quiet seaside town, Coney Island went on to boom years in the 1880s, wealthy New Yorkers flocked there to enjoy a stay at the beautiful hotels and bathhouses that had sprung up along the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Only those, who could afford to travel on a steamboat to Coney Island, had a chance to visit “The Dreamland” on their vacation or weekend time. Poor immigrant and regular workers didn’t have money to go to Coney Island, so they were stuck in their slums, where they used to live in a very bad condition and suffer from different illnesses. Coney Island's three big luxury hotels, the Manhattan Beach, Oriental and Brighton Beach were the epitome of a gracious and leisurely age, a unique expression of their era. They were long rambling wooden structures, 600 to 800 feet in length with deep verandas (porches) reaching down their entire length. They faced the sea but were set back by wide green lawns decorated with beds of geraniums and lobelias, and had broad curving walks. These gracious hotels became more and more popular with each day. Evening entertainment included music and fireworks. The wealthy and fashionable crowds needed diversion and many craved a race track. In 1879 William Engeman

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