The Eiffel Tower Of Brooklyn: The Queens Connection
d made a very astute observation regarding this post:
I thought I recognized the parachute drop from Coney Island – it was in Queens for the Worldâ€™s Fair and moved to Coney in the 40s. I absolutely love that thing, and on a recent jaunt to Coney (I go there pretty frequently), this old Brooklyn character sat down (with a beer in a paperbag, natch) at the table where my friend and I were sitting on the boardwalk and told us loads of stories, including that the parachute drop is called the â€œEiffel Tower of Brooklyn.â€
It’s true: Brooklyn’s “Eiffel Tower” is in fact sloppy seconds from Queens!
The ride was built in and towered over the fair’s “Amusement Zone”. The Life Savers company sponsored the ride, investing $15,000 and decorating the new tower with brightly lit candy-shaped rings. Eleven parachutes were used, leaving the tower with one empty arm. Adult riders paid 40 cents, children a quarter. The trip up took about a minute and the drop down was over in 10 or 20 seconds. The official 1939 Fair guidebook describes the ride:
Eleven gaily-colored parachutes operated from the top of a 250-foot tower, enable visitors to experience all the thrills of “bailing out” without the hazard or discomfort. Each parachute has a double seat suspended from it. When two passengers have taken their places beneath the ‘chute, a cable pulls it to the summit of the tower. An automatic release starts the drop, and the passengers float gently to the ground. Vertical guide wires prevent swaying, a metal ring keeps the ‘chute open at all times, and shock-absorbers eliminate the impact of the landing. One of the most spectacular features of the Amusement Area, this is also a type of parachute jump similar to that which the armies of the world use in early stages of training for actual parachute jumping.
At one point entangled cables left a Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Rathborne aloft for five hours; the next day they returned to ride again, probably at the behest of publicists for the ride or the fair. Another couple, Arno Rudolphi and Ann Hayward, were married on the ride in a celebrated “parachute wedding”. The entire wedding party was suspended aloft until the newlyweds completed their vows and descended.*
Tilyou paid $150,000 for this parachute drop and it opened in 1941. At face value this would appear to be bad timing. It wasn’t: per this article from June 23, 1943 edition of the New York Times.
You can read the rest by clicking here. Otherwise here are a few pictures from Coney Island the month the previous article was written.
Father and son at Coney Island. Note the parachute drop at the far left!
From what I can tell about the lot of negatives of I have this chap was in the Navy During World War II. He looks glum about his future in this photo (and rightfully so). Coney Island’s future nowadays looks equally dismal.
*Too bad it is inoperative now. Sounds like the perfect place for Levi Johnston’s shotgun wedding.
Photo Credit: Parachute Jump Postcards, www.history.amusement-parks.com