In the above photos you'll see Coney Island as it looked in the late 1800s through the early 1920s—right up until when the boardwalk was being built. And here are a few facts from the 1800s that you may not know about the area:

  • Native American inhabitants (specifically, the Lenape) called the area Narrioch—meaning "land without shadows."

  • There are many beliefs about the origins of its modern day name, one being that Coney Island translates to "Rabbit Island," and "rabbit hunting prospered until resort development eliminated their habitat."
  • From 1885 to 1896, the Coney Island Elephant (which you'll see in the above photos) was the first sight to greet immigrants arriving here.
  • The original Coney Island Hotel was constructed in 1829.
  • In the 1830s and 1840s, carriage roads and steamship services began to make the trip to Coney Island easier, with reduced travel time from a half-day journey to just two hours from Manhattan and other boroughs.
  • "When the first structures were built around the 1840s, there was an outcry to prevent any development on the island and preserve it as a natural park." (Robert Moses would oppose the new amusements and "tawdry" entertainment at Coney Island in 1944.)
  • Coney Island became a major resort destination after the American Civil War.
Here's a great, thorough timeline

of the area, dating back to the 1600s. Click through for a look back at Coney Island like you've never seen it.