Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Future Of Coney Island's Historic District Could Boast The Banker's Ballroom

The Banker's Ballroom
(Click image to enlarge)

The Save Coney Island group, released, Wednesday, a new rendering envisioning the Bank of Coney Island as a new Bowery style ballroom for music and other events.  They named it “The Banker’s Ballroom”.
Their reasoning was to demonstrate that there is a different and positive option for the structure, other than that of destroying it, which is what Thor Equities plans to do.  Their disrespect for Coney Island has gone on for far too long.  Once you vanish the possibility of this historic place from having a genuine historic district, you can never bring it back.
Save Coney Island writes:
“The Bank of Coney Island could be restored and re-purposed as a Bowery-Ballroom-style event space,” said Save Coney Island spokesman Juan Rivero. “This would not only preserve one of Coney's most attractive and historic structures, but also give new life to the amusement area and contribute to its revitalization.”
While Thor Equities has to date not expressed interest in revitalizing the structure, Save Coney Island hopes that another entity might purchase the site from Thor and adaptively reuse the Bank of Coney Island building. 
The structure, which is still sound, was built in the early 1920’s by the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce.  It boasts a neo-classical architectural style.  As Save Coney Island notes, the bank dealt with many of the amusement businesses in the area.  It ceased to exist as a bank in the early 90’s.  After which, it was temporary making competition with Coney Island USA’s Sideshow by the Seashore, with Bobby Reynolds and his two headed babies and other freak shows before heading out west leaving the bank an empty oasis for almost twenty years.
We can only hope that the Bank building is saved and restored.  Hopefully, a miracle could come from around the corner and make Coney’s historic district a reality for it’s future.  Save Coney Island gives us a glimpse of hope with their comment:
“New York has a track record of saving wonderful structures from the chopping block at the eleventh hour,” said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council.  “Grand Central, the High Line, even Coney Island's own Parachute Jump and Cyclone were all once threatened with demolition, but were ultimately restored and have become New York City icons. The Bank of Coney Island could be the next.”

[The history the Bank of Coney Island from the Save Coney Islands press release after the jump]:

From the press release by Save Coney Island group

T h e B a n k o f C o n e y I s l a n d

located 3001 - 3017 West 12th Street
Threatened with demolition by Thor Equities
The Bank of Coney Island building was built ca. 1923 on West 12th Street and was once part of a larger bank complex that extended to the corner of Surf Avenue. Designed by Holmes & Winslow, architects that specialized in bank design, the building was executed in stone with traditional classical motifs. Many original features remain including a double height arched entrance anked by Doric pilasters and capped by a keystone; a denticulated cornice below the attic level; and a stone string course above the attic oor windows.
(Image on right top: Bank of Coney Island Building, ca. 1940 (from NYC Transit Museum)

(Image on right bottom: Bank of Coney Island Building today)
The Bank of Coney Island was originally formed to serve and strengthen the businesses and industry of the immediate area, most of which were related to amusements. Among the early founders of the Bank of Coney Island were other well-known Coney Island land and amusement owners. These included Frederick Henderson of Henderson’s Hall; Charles  Feltman of Feltman’s beer garden (where the hotdog was invented); Henry Grashorn of the Grashorn hardware store; and William J. Ward, proprietor of the Ward’s baths and other amusements. Built at the dawn of the Nickel Empire, the Bank of Coney Island building represents the solidi cation of the Coney Island’s business community that helped de ne an era of stabilization and public investment in the neighborhood.

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