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Dreamland: 1905

Coney Island, New York, circa 1905. "Dreamland Ballroom."  The home of light music. 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.

Coney Island, New York, circa 1905. "Dreamland Ballroom." The home of light music. 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

That's a good surprise

I don't expect to see many photos of Dreamland, considering its short life. And that ballroom invites me to dance. Live orchestra, free champagne, some beluga -- I'd really like to be there right now. Thanks for this nice surprise, and waiting for more Dreamland.

Dual purpose room?

I keep looking at this picture and think that it might have served as a roller rink and or a dance hall. The floor being worn so much at the corners or "turns" has me wondering.


I count six burned out lights. Anyone else see some I missed ??

Gorgeously Illuminated

The Real New York, 1904.

The rival paradise, Dreamland, is said to have cost over $3,000,000. It has taken over the old Iron Pier and built above it the largest ballroom ever made, 20,000 square feet; beneath is the restaurant and a promenade, and beneath all the cool rush of the surf. The company runs four large steamers, as well as Santos-Dumont's Airship No. 9.

Light, Vol. 4, 1904.

The Ballroom, as here pictured, is the most gorgeously illuminated interior not only to be found at Coney Island, but there is none such interior lighting effect even at the World's Fair. This ballroom is one of the sights of New York at night, and is a study from the standpoint of the lighting engineer.

Electrical Age, Vol. 37, 1906.

"Dreamland," Coney Island, has perhaps the best lighted ballroom in the world.

Empty Shell

The band appears to have taken a break.

Where's the DJ?

Dreamland Fire

The ballroom was part of the larger Dreamland amusement park. Just before the park opened for the season in 1911 work was being done to repair the roof on the "Hell's Gate" ride. At least part of the work was being done at night. At about 1:30 a.m. the light bulbs illuminating the work area began exploding, probably due to an electrical malfunction. In the dark after the lights went out a worker kicked over a bucket of hot tar which started the fire. The flame spread swiftly because the park was essentially built of lath covered with a mixture of hemp fiber and plaster of Paris.

[One view of the aftermath is here. - Dave]

The largest ballroom in the United States

The Coney Island season opened every year in mid-May, with plenty of advance publicity about new attractions. Dreamland and its ballroom were built on a beachfront site previously cleared by another disastrous fire. Below is an excerpt from a New York Times feature, "A New Coney Island Rises from the Ashes of the Old," dated May 8, 1904.

A week later, 250,000 people came to see all the new attractions.

Now listen Carl,

the burned out bulb is aisle five, row nine and it's the fourth from the end.

Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland

I wonder if that song referred to this particularly wonderful dance hall or just to dreaming in general. Since there are many people in this photo, seated in the outlying areas seemingly waiting for some event to begin, perhaps this was taken just prior to a dance contest or maybe a marathon "dance till you drop" endurance test. Like many other pictures on Shorpy, this brings to mind the hauntingly beautiful empty ballroom in the movie "The Shining."

[This is 1905, so I don't know about "dance till you drop." Maybe "waltz till you wither." - Dave]

Easy Bake

I bet it felt like an oven under the 10,000 light bulbs. And man, I wonder how the electric bill looked like, even for 1905.

One stout ghostly gent

There are figures visible around the periphery of the dance floor and one stout ghostly gent there on the left, who moved a bit during the long exposure. I think that the dancers are there, but they are moving so much that we can't see them.

[If there were people moving around the dance floor, I think we'd see them, however blurrily. - Dave]

I'm guessing the fire was


A job for life

keeping all those light bulbs in working order!

Beautiful place.

It's hard to imagine a place so bright and cheery in 1905.
To the people at the time this must have seemed like a Wonderland.

We have become pretty immune to simple pleasures like this, it takes a Las Vegas sized Light Show to impress anyone today.

Great shell for the band

Bet they played all the newest songs of the day. Hot hits such as "In My Merry Oldsmobile," "In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree" and "Wait 'till the Sun Shines, Nellie."

Six years before its up in flames

This wonderfully eerie photo was taken about six years before the catastrophic Dreamland fire:

"On May 27, 1911, a huge fire illuminated the sky and sent fire companies from all over Brooklyn rushing to Coney Island. Dreamland Park was ablaze."

One wonders where the dancers are; the floor's pretty worn.

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