28 May 2009

Mysterious Grandiosity on Coney Island Avenue

On a recent stroll down Coney Island Avenue (yes, I stroll down such streets), this grand four-story building at the southeast corner of Coney and Foster Avenues had me scratching my head.

Coney Island Avenue is five-mile-long thoroughfare of almost unrelenting ugliness, lined primarily with funeral homes and auto repair shop. (Fix your car. Fix your corpse!) This mansion-like structure, with its still downright beautiful roof, is entirely out of place.

Forgotten New York has previously wondered over the building, which is now filled with a variety of shops on its long ground floor. The old Coney Island and Brooklyn Railroad ran along the avenue, and FNY speculated that it might have been a roadhouse for weary travelers making the journey. It does have the look of a hotel about it. Why else have that roof with its palace-like turrets, and the fine, arched windows?

I can find no record anywhere of what this thing used to be, aside from a DOB Certificate of Occupancy from 1938 that says it had stores on the ground floor (like today) and single family residences on the two floors above. One has to imagine its life was something different around the turn of the century. Also, my hunch is the roof used to be symmetrical, with the green turrets on the south side matched by a similar pair on the north side.

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