Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Pier Theory

Image courtesy of Getty Images

The 'Special Holiday Double Issue' of the British political magazine, The Economist, includes a lyrical social history of piers, cheekily entitled 'The End of The Pier.' The article- which is subtitled both 'The poignancy of piers' and 'Musings on a favorite momento mori: Atlantic City, Brighton, Coney Island, Southend and Southwold'- covers a lot of ground in three pages. A 150 year history of pleasure piers is given, following them from playgrounds for the upper class, to playgrounds to the working class, to largely abandoned or destroyed. This history is then used as a jumping off point to philosophize on the nature of piers, which offer a "sense of being in limbo, neither on sea nor on land, suspended in a state of fantasy."

Coney Island gets two mentions in the article, for Steeplechase Pier, and for Dreamland Pier, which apparently contained the largest ballroom in the world before it burned in 1911. A lot of the article's 'pier theory' also applies generally to the boardwalk and non-pier amusement area of Coney Island.

The End of The Pier [The Economist]

- post by Ben Nadler

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