Dreamland: Inspired by Envy

Local politicians and real estate developers became jealous of Luna Park’s success. Former Republican State Senator William H. Reynolds and his associates thought a more elaborate park would draw the crowds. He worked together with the Wonderland Corporation, then included Pat McCarren, Brooklyn’s Democratic political boss, and Timothy Sullivan, a downtown New York Democratic leader.

Many bidders on the land withdrew because the property was halved by West 8th Street, but politicians made deals and maneuvered correctly to make the land into the desirable beachfront area it had the capacity to be.

The Coney Island (Seaside) Athletic Club and other well-known buildings were razed in 1903 to make room for Dreamland. Architects Kirby, Pettit, and Green were given carte blanche to design a park, and they let their creativity flow. They laid it out around a lagoon, which they could flood at high tide. The surrounding buildings were unique but harmonious, which differentiated them from Luna Park’s chaos.

600,000 gallons of water were stored in the central tower in case of a fire, and 1,700 tons of asbestos were brought in to fireproof the park. Ninety miles of sewer, gas, water and electrical conduit were built.

Dreamland’s owners were not show business men, but they recruited Samuel Gumpertz, a successful prodigy from Missouri. He won his first job walking on his hands and doing flip-flops, but had to stop after injuring himself.

Sam became a child actor in San Francisco, but was demoted to usher when his voice changed. After he moved to Texas in dejection at this fact, Samuel Gumpertz found a home performing for Buffalo Bill Cody’s show in Abilene. He ran four amusement parks and two theaters in St. Louis between 1893 and 1897. From 1897 to 1903, he worked for Colonel John D. Hopkins, managing 17 theaters for him.

Gumpertz channeled his circus background into a novel attraction idea: a small village for hundreds of midgets. He also convinced Bostock to merge his European and American animal shows and run them during Coney’s summer season. Other circus acts occurred in a ring in the middle of the park’s lagoon.

At $2,500,000, Dreamland was much more expensive to build than the $700,000 Luna Park. It had more space, more expensive attractions, and a larger amount of employees. Its 375 foot Beacon Tower, with 100,000 lights, was bigger and more extravagant than the sea of colored contraptions in Luna Park.

The creators of Dreamland stole many of Luna Park’s attraction concepts and gave their versions different names. Trip to the Moon was C.E. Boyer’s Over and Under the Sea, and Frank Bostock created an animal show much like Hagenback’s in Luna Park.

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