By: Ian K. Seppala
Lost Amusement Parks of New York City: Beyond Coney Island. Barbara Gottlock, Wesley Gottlock. The History Press, Charleston, South Carolina. 2013.
Lost Amusement Parks of New York City: Beyond Coney Island provides an interesting insight into New York City amusement. The scope of the book is closed amusement parks in the New York City area, excluding Coney Island. They chose to exclude Coney Island because it has been well covered by other publications. I enjoy their commitment to bringing to light the history of parks that have been forgotten by most of the public. Each chapter of the book is based on a specific borough: Manhattan, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The chapters are then broken into each beach or park they describe. This simple geographic based organization is very helpful.
Several important themes are prevalent within the book. The first is fire. According to the Gottlock's of the nine amusement parks mentioned, only two did not have devastating fires while open. This was particularly devastating when most of the rides and buildings were built out of wood. Another was public transport. Public transport ( especially when cheap) was a major factor in getting visitors to the parks. When public transport became less relied upon, like after the popularization of cars, the parks struggled for attendance. The Gottlock's also focused on how the Great Depression and both world wars effected the parks. One of best abilities of this book was to provide a thoughtful and important context to each park. By providing this context and using prevailing themes, it allows readers to draw important conclusions about amusement parks in New York City form late nineteenth to mid-twentieth century.
The Gottlock's did a wonderful job describing the overall timeline of each park. I was especially interesting in the process of creating each park. Famous rides and attractions were mentioned, including where they came from. The book also contained photographs of specifics important attractions in the parks. My favorite inclusion was the information and photographs of PTC #15.
Even though this book was informative and historically rich in information, I did perceive some flaws. The sources for the book are provided in the acknowledgement and introduction sections, but there is no source list or bibliography at the end. This makes it more difficult for historians or researchers to corroborate the specific stories or numbers presented. This will make it more difficult for me to use this as a source. Another concern may just be an audience issue. I am not from New York City and therefore had a difficulty relating locations based on street names. Organizing the book by geography did help alleviate this. While the targeted audience of the book may be those with that knowledge, a map of each location would have been beneficial for me. These however are small issues and I still recommend this book.
Overall, Lost Amusement Parks of New York City: Beyond Coney Island by Barbara and Wesley Gottlock provides great prospective into the amusement parks of historic New York City. I highly recommend this book to historians looking to get an overview in amusement practices of the twentieth century. I also recommend this to anyone who experienced these parks. This book can be a wonderful trip down memory lane for those who rode the rides, at the food, and experienced all these parks had to offer. The collection of colored photographs, marketing info, and postcards are a great sight.
What lost amusement parks would you want to see more information on? Do you have any memories of parks like these? How did you like this review? Comment below! This book is currently available digitally and in print through Barnes & Noble and Amazon through the links below.