The city, looking to rid itself of Coney's seedy culture, had spent decades trying to shut down the remaining amusements. The public was outraged when Robert Moses announced his intentions of replacing both Luna and Steeplechase's rides with plush green meadows. Unable to follow through with creating new, quiet parkland, Moses instead settled for a wider beach and wider boardwalk which ate into the amusement zone. Along the way Moses had many of the dying bathhouses (which had already lost their main source of income back in 1923 when the city took control of the beach) razed. Stauch's too (as diagramed below) was reduced in size to make way for the wider boardwalk.
Moses imported white sand from the tropics to build Long Island's immaculate Jones Beach in 1929. Later he looked to turn Coney's culture from an amusement destination that also had a beach, to a beach destination that also had amusements. His efforts proved successful.
The crowd below, during the summer of 1940, immediately after Moses' alterations, was at the time Coney's largest ever. After WWII, crowds actually increased to record highs, often surpassing the million mark on "Sunny Summer Sundays." In total, the summers of 1946 and '47 each brought close to 45 million people to Coney's shores. More people were coming out for the beach than even those who came out for Coney's Nickel Empire/coaster craze of the 1920s.
Unfortunately for the tightly knit Tilyou family running Steeplechase, and especially for the revolving door of owners running Luna Park, the larger beach crowds didn't equate to more business at the amusement parks.
1941: After a two year run at the first New York World's fair, put together by Robert Moses in Flushing Meadow's Park, the Parachute Jump (originally built to train US Paratroopers) was moved to Steeplechase. It was one of the last major rides brought to Coney during the Robert Moses era.
The Bobsled ride was also brought in from the World's Fair and featured speeds of 50 miles per hour. The ride was owned by Joseph Bonsignore who would later buy other independent rides like the Tornado as well as the enormous Stauch's bathhouse.
Even during the war years, Coney's beach goers grew to absurd amounts. The photo below shows only the western end of Coney. West of both Steeplechase, Luna Park as well as the many independent rides and booths in between the two.
Many in the crowds included sailors having final flings before shipping off to the deadliest of all wars.
1943: Blown away years before Marilyn Monroe!
Luna Park during better times. Mismanagement lead to struggles not seen at Steeplechase during the Great Depression. Known for its many lights, Luna Park like the rest of America's coast line remained dark at night during World War II.
Like Dreamland decades earlier, Luna Park burned to ruble.
Unlike Dreamland, Luna Park had already been hemorrhaging money at the time of the 1943 fire. With no cash to rebuild, the land was handed to creditors who actually kept the few rides untouched by the fire open until the end of the summer. The land later passed into city hands where Robert Moses used the 40+ acres to build high rise low income housing.
The Luna Park Houses opened in 1953. Throughout the '50s Moses surrounded the amusement district with hundreds of more acres of public housing.
1947: Although not as big as independent owner, Herman Garms' Wonder Wheel, Steeplechase too had its own boardwalk side ferris wheel. Notice the Steeplechase logo in the f/g.
1949: Almost 300 feet in the air, from atop the Parachute Jump.The crowds seemed to grow with each passing decade. This trend would turn in the 1950s and beyond.
1951: Steeplechase as the area's only major amusement park.
1953: On set still to Morris Engel's The Little Fugitive. The world famous Tornedo on the left.
Television, an increase in cars, white flight into the suburbs, general disinterest from the public, and a lack of support from the city (including eliminating express train service to Coney in 1953) also played roles in Coney's demise. As late as the early to mid 50s, however, it was not still clear that Coney's greatest days were gone for good.
In fact, to this day, Coney's largest single day crowd was on the 4th of July, 1955. During that same summer, CBS entertainer and host, Arthur Godfrey, filmed his nationally televised morning show on location from Steeplechase. For the most part, it was all downhill from there. Perhaps fittingly, 1955 was also the year that Disneyland, the first of the supersized theme parks, was born. Finally, 1955 was also the first, last, and only time that the Brooklyn Dodgers would win the World Series.
Despite the changes around its guarded fences, Steeplechase remained an oasis throughout the 1950s. That said, projects built to the west, and an amusement district which the city allowed to fall into disrepair to the east, caught Steeplechase in a vice. Crowds shrunk throughout the decade as getting to Steeplechas proved a daunting trek for the thousands of daily visitors arriving from the deteriorating Stillwell Avenue Terminal.
1961: The Steeplechase pool, once the world's largest, sits nearly empty as crowd sizes continued to diminish. A sad, dark secret about the enormous pool; it was segregated. This despite the fact that the Tilyou's had blacks working the park for 50 years.
Due to new bacteria level relegations put in by the city, the pool was not opened in 1964, the same year President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Right's Act.
1962: Coney's last hurrah. Dewey Albert who bought Feltman's bathhouse and restaurant after it closed in 1954 used the land to build a small amusement park with a space age theme.
Astroland's Mercury Capsule Skyride with one of the many Luna Park Apartment buildings in the b/g and to the left. Although seeming futuristic at the time, the Skyride was closed in 1973 do to small crowds. By the early '70s Astroland itself lost its space aged theme and took the look of a tawdry traveling carnival.
1962: Beachside fireworks, a Coney tradition which still exists.
1964: An aerial shot from the Luna Park Apartments, facing south, towards the Atlantic Ocean.
The shot shows Astroland amongst the independent booths and rides.
Just outside this bird's eye view, the at the time new aquarium located east, to the left of this shot (where Dreamland once stood). Also just out of shot, the doomed Steeplechase (in the process of being purchased by Fred Trump) west and to the right.
1964: As the city continued its neglect of Coney Island, for the second time in his career, Robert Moses brought the World's Fair to Flushing Meadows, Queens. After the fair Moses sold several rides to Disneyland but never had any of them moved to Coney.
1965: Steeplechase sits idle after Fred (Donald's dad) Trump's purchase of Coney's greatest amusement park. Trump paid Marie Tilyou (George C. Tilyou's elderly daughter) 2.5 million dollars for Coney's most famous park. At the time Marie Tilyou called Steeplechase "a gorgeous rose in a garbage can." Thanks to escalating real estate prices, Steeplechase's land was actually worth more than the park itself. Trump bought Coney's most iconic park with the intention of tearing it down and replacing it with a highrise apartment complex. He made good on part of his promise the following year, throwing a ghastly demolition party in the process.