When George C. Tilyou opened Steeplechase Park in 1897, it marked the beginning of Coney Island’s era as “the Nation’s Playground” and moved us towards the modern-day amusement park. It was home to Coney Island’s first Ferris wheel, the Barrel of Love, The Human Pool Table, The Earthquake Stairway, a giant spinning disc called the Human Roulette Wheel, and their signature attraction: The Steeplechase Horse ride. This ride gave ordinary folks the thrill of horse racing; it was a six-track, gravity-driven ride where a person sitting atop a wooden horse would barrel towards the checkered finish line.
Suburbia, the Jersey Shore, Robert Moses, and the decline of the surrounding neighborhood all factored into Tilyou’s daughter selling the property in 1964. In February 1965 Fred Trump, Donald’s father, purchased the land with the intention of developing low-cost housing on the site while neighbors lobbied the city for landmark status. Despite being unable to get New York City to change the zoning laws for the waterfront property, Trump threw a “demolition party” where participants were invited to throw bricks at the Park’s façade. In 1966 he bulldozed the majority of the Park.
In the video Forgetting, we retrace the boardwalk through a pair of oafish Cookie Monsteresque characters. Our goggly eyed heroes melt into the history of the site, ambling from the rides down for a rest on the beach, then disappearing under the boardwalk where childlike vice has always found its home.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website