Dreamland: “Coney Island Holocaust” — 1911

by Paula Bosse

How had I never heard of Dreamland, the massive Coney Island amusement park which opened to great fanfare in 1904? It took seeing the random ad below — for rubber fire hoses — to pique my curiosity: what’s with the smoldering roller coaster? Dreamland Park was a hit with the public, but it lasted for only 7 years — in 1911 a fast-moving fire destroyed the whole place (a fire which appears to have started while crews were repairing a ride appropriately called “Hell Gate”). By morning, Dreamland was no more. Its 1,000,000 lights never twinkled again. Dreamland, we hardly knew ye. The Voorhees Rubber Co. was Johnny-on-the-spot in getting this ad out. “Dreamland” is mentioned nowhere in the ad, but everyone in 1911 would have known exactly what the scene showed.

dreamland_firehose-ad_19111911 ad, Voorhees Rubber Mfg. Co.


There are tons of great articles and photos of Dreamland out there — it’s fun to just wander around the internet, soaking up the atmosphere. Lots of great info and photos can be found here.

And I really enjoyed this informative short video about the history of this extravagant park — it’s filled with lots of wonderful historical photos:


dreamland_brooklyn-times-union_050704Brooklyn Times, May 7, 1904

dreamland_brooklyn-times-union_051204Brooklyn Times, May 12, 1904

dreamland_brigandi-museumPaul and Nancy Brigandi Museum, via CarouselHistory.com


dreamland_LOCvia Library of Congress


Disaster hit on the night of May 27, 1911. Billboard’s front page read: “CONEY ISLAND HOLOCAUST.” (Read the story in an Internet Archive scan, here.)


And, in no time at all, the Voorhees Rubber Mfg. Co. of Jersey City, New Jersey rushed into print their brilliantly opportunistic ad for fire hoses, using an Antietem-esque photo of the ruined Dreamland.


Sources & Notes

My introduction to Dreamland came via the 1911 ad for the Voorhees Rubber Mfg. Co. I have no idea where I found it!



Copyright © 2023 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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