In the Ruins of Playland, Artifacts of Better Days

Nathan Kensinger, photo-chronicler extraordinaire of the city’s abandoned spaces, returns this morning with a lavishly illustrated dispatch from the Playland Arcade in Coney Island, which flourished, to varying degrees, from 1935 until 1982. It comes at a moment in Coney’s history when several of its more venerable remaining institutions are getting the boot, when, Mr. Kensinger writes, “Cha Cha’s and Ruby’s have served their last drinks and have, in turn, been served with eviction papers.”

Of Playland, Mr. Kensinger writes:

Inside the arcade, an army of raccoons and cats has taken over. If not for the freezing winter weather, the stench of their urine would be overwhelming. … Lining the walls of this forlorn structure is an impressive artifact from Coney Island’s history, in the form of dozens of hand-painted murals. Though badly deteriorated, there are many colorful scenes remaining. Presented almost as panels in a comic book, these are portraits of a different Coney Island era, long past. Strip poker, naked hunting, shotgun weddings, Sasquatch, moonshine, Skee-Ball, mermaids and cartoonish gun violence. This is Coney Island’s lost soul.

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