Freak On! Texan Takes Coney Space to Compete With Other Sideshows
Jones Walk and Surf Avenue
Coney Island’s oldest building will soon play a role in its oldest rivalry: the vying for the biggest, baddest freak show. Texan sideshow owner John Strong is making a bid for the title, signing a new lease at the Grashorn Building on Surf Avenue, according to the New York Post. His competition includes Dick Zigun’s Coney Island USA Circus Sideshow, and, if a deal with the city is finalized, an amusement park run by Zamperla, called Luna Park.
Built in the 1880s, the Surf Avenue building was home to Grashorn’s Hardware, which outfitted much of early Coney Island’s burgeoning amusement industry. The Municipal Art Society has made a push for the city to recognize the building as a landmark, so far to no avail.
The building is owned by developer Joe Sitt, who bought up much of Coney Island in recent years for a proposed amusement park called Dreamland. When Mr. Strong first came to town last summer, he leased part of the former Astroland site, which Mr. Sitt has since sold to the city.
The original Luna Park and Dreamland were among Coney Island’s first competing amusement parks. At Luna Park, a herd of elephants roamed the land, including one who was electrocuted by Thomas Edison. The proprietors of Dreamland, meanwhile, recruited 300 little people to live in a small-scale village called Lilliputia and, to gain a wider audience, encouraged the community to engage in sexually promiscuous behavior.