Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island & Seaside Park
The former Child’s Restaurant, located on the boardwalk in Coney Island, is a rare remnant of the old Coney Island of the early 20th century. Constructed in 1923, the landmarked building is a deceptively large masonry box, designed as if it washed up out of the sea with sand colored stucco walls dripping with exquisite terra cotta ornaments. The restaurant closed after WWII and was later used for candy manufacturing before becoming vacant for a long period of time.
Multiple efforts to resurrect the vacant structure were made, including its intermittent use as a roller rink. There were also several different attempts to redevelop the property, but success did not culminate until 2012, when a massive team was put together by New York-based real estate firm, iStar. City-owned adjacent land and former street beds to the west of the structure were joined to provide space for 5,000 seats and a one+ acre park. PULLMAN teamed-up with the owner, Seaside Park, and engineer, WSP Cantor Seinuk, setting the stage for this landmarked space to become the new Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island and Seaside Park.
Restoration & Replication Efforts
Due to the building’s proximity to the ocean, it had been highly affected by corrosion, erosion, biological growth, and freeze/thaw cycles. The damage was most prominent on the ornamental terra cotta pieces and stucco on the exterior walls. Photographs from an American Architect article about the building were extremely helpful in determining some of the very subtle differences in what appeared to be identical ornamentation. In total, thirty-six glazes were developed from over 600 samples, and 752 new terra cotta pieces were replicated for the building, while 102 were salvaged and reset, and 171 were repaired on site.
A layer of incompatible stucco on the south and east walls and all asbestos containing waterproofing materials were also removed. This resulted in the discovery of numerous cracks related to deteriorated steel roof framing and miscellaneous steel installations. All of the facade steel was then repaired or replaced. Extreme care was taken to match the new terra cotta and stucco to the original terra cotta and stucco as closely as possible.
In addition, the building’s western wall was damaged during a massive multi-block fire in 1932, so the exterior wythe of brick had to be removed and replaced. Finally, the center section of the west wall was removed for the opening of the amphitheater stage and a roof top bar was constructed.
Reviving the Past for a Brighter Future
A blighted brick box, adorned with some of the most spectacular terra cotta ever conceived, much less created and installed, was renovated to become a community center, restaurant, and amphitheater. The original themes and historic fabric were honored and restored, and the original use of a restaurant was incorporated into the new design.
After years of a decay and a multi-year, multifaceted restoration, the building has new life on the Coney Island boardwalk. It has received multiple awards, including a 2017 ICRI Award of Excellence for Historic Restoration, and, more recently, The New York Landmarks Conservancy Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award, also known as the “the Oscars of Preservation”.