Steeplechase Park

The Daily Plant : Friday, June 6, 2003


Coney Island, land of fun, has welcomed another playground into its fold. The new play area, named Tilyou Playground, was given to Parks & Recreation in by the Muss Development Corporation, as mitigation for their construction of the Oceana residential development. To celebrate the completion of the playground, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Council Member Domenic Recchia, Jason Muss of the Muss Development Corporation, Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Julius Spiegel, and Assistant Commissioner for Community Relations Ed Lewis joined Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe in a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The new playground features play equipment for children and a separate "tot lot" play area as well as a spray shower, benches, and a sloped lawn. Nearby sidewalks were also renovated with new street tree plantings and landscaping. In addition to constructing Tilyou Playground, the Muss Development Corporation also renovated the entrance to the Boardwalk at Coney Island Avenue, adding a garden, landscaping, benches, and a flagpole.

Tilyou Playground is named for Peter and George Tilyou, a father-son team who were two of Coney Island’s earliest entrepreneurs. Peter Tilyou moved his family to Coney Island in 1865 to establish the Surf House, a beach front hotel and restaurant, and the Surf Theater, a showcase for such names as Pat Rooney, Sam Bernard and Weber & Fielda. Peter Tilyou, known for his keen business instinct, established Surf House’s loyal clientele with seasonal bargains, offering Bavarian Lager for five cents and free bowls of clam chowder with bathing suit rentals. Peter Tilyou’s son, George, began following his father’s footsteps as a child, selling boxes of sand and bottles of saltwater to gullible tourists visiting Surf House. George and Peter officially became a father-son team in 1894, when they founded Steeplechase Park. Once Brooklyn’s biggest attraction, Steeplechase Park featured rides such as the Human Roulette Wheel, the sloping Steeplechase, the Witchway, and the Barrel of Love. The amusement park flourished for years, surviving both George and Peter Tilyou, the Great Depression, two fires and two World Wars. It’s doors did not officially close until 1964.

Oceana, the residential development that accompanies Tilyou Playground, was built on 15 acres of the former Brighton Beach Baths, another Coney Island landmark. The newly completed development is home to 850 apartments, a clubhouse, an indoor and outdoor pool, and a recreation center within a network of "neighborhood scaled" streets and intimate green spaces designed to blend into the surrounding Brighton Beach community. Oceana’s total development cost is expected to exceed $250 million, and the Muss Development Corporation will continue to contribute annually to Parks & Recreation for the maintenance and upkeep of Tilyou Playground.

Judging from the smiles on the faces of the children who played on the new play equipment during the ribbon cutting, it seems that Tilyou Playground will develop a following worthy of the Tilyou tradition.

Written by Hannah Gersen


"Nobody tells me anything."

John Galsworthy


Directions to Steeplechase Park

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