Nature July 30, 2016
Most People Don’t Know The History Of Washington’s Coney Island
Imagine if Washington State had its own Coney Island theme park… the roller coaster, the carnival games, the circus acts, all of it. Wouldn’t it be amazing? The truth is, we did have a “Coney Island” here for a brief moment in time. From 1907 to 1913, an amusement park in West Seattle kept locals and tourists entertained. It was called Luna Park, and it was named after Coney Island’s Luna Park.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
Construction for Luna Park began in 1906, led by Charles I.D. Looff, who carved and installed the first carousel on Coney Island. There was a lot of eager anticipation while it was being constructed. It was even called the Greatest Amusement Park on the West Coast.
Luna Park’s waterfront location made it even more special. Its expansive boardwalk extended over Elliot Bay, and it was brightly illuminated at dusk. The park could be seen for miles and looked like a glittering jewel in the night sky. You could even access the park by ferry, which must have been a magical experience.
Unfortunately, not everyone was a fan of Luna Park. The well advertised and well-stocked bar was a popular place to be at night, and that angered the locals who lived near Alki Beach. They were worried about their community being overrun by drunks. West Seattle petitioned to be annexed into Seattle in hopes that the mayor would be able to help them. But the mayor had his hands full already since Ballard, Columbia City, Ravenna and South Park were also annexed that year.
If the park’s only problems had been disgruntled neighbors, it may still be around today. But several visitors were injured at the park, and several of them successfully sued. Charles I.D. Looff eventually sold his share of the company out of frustration and moved back to California.
As Luna Park’s visitors dwindled, a grand reopening was planned for 2013. The new manager spread the news of a total makeover from enlarged attractions and better amusement park rides. But instead of the grand reopening, the park closed for good. All rides were disassembled and removed. The Natatorium stayed opened and renamed itself to Luna Pool, but it caught on fire and was destroyed in 1931. When the tide at Alki Point is very, very low, you can still see the foundation that once supported the park.
Though it has been gone for over 100 years, parts of Luna Park still remain. The Zeum Carousel is now operating at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco. And West Seattle’s Luna Park Cafe, which is located just up the road from the park site, has pictures of its namesake hung all over its walls. You’ll find a bit of park memorabilia if you look hard enough, like a single tile taken from the original Natatorium. You’ll also see a 1958 Seeburg jukebox, a mini jukebox at every table, old street signs, the world’s largest electric guitar and other vintage items.
They have stickers that say “Meet Me At Luna Park” featuring a devil from an old Luna Park advertisement.
Do you wish Luna Park had survived? You may not be able to explore Washington’s Coney Island, but you can still visit one of our oldest towns for your history fix.