Top ten lost New York attractions: Penn Station, Luna Park and more

We've rounded up ten of the best New York attractions that are now lost to the ages, including the majestic old Penn Station and Brooklyn's old amusement parks

  • Photograph: Library of Congress

    Luna Park, Coney Island

  • Photograph: Library of Congress

    Old Penn Station

  • Photograph: Roger Higgins/Librar

    1939 World's Fair

  • Starlight Park

  • Photograph: Library of Congress

    Ebbets Field

  • Photograph: Berenice Abbott/NYPL

    Horn & Hardart

  • The Waldorf and Astoria Hotels

  • Paramount Theatre

Photograph: Library of Congress

Luna Park, Coney Island

Lamenting the city's many lost attractions is a time-honored New York pastime—one we're obviously not immune to. Get the scoop on ten of the most iconic, now-shuttered New York attractions, including Coney Island's old amusement parks and the beautiful old Penn Station.

1. Luna Park and Dreamland

In the early 1900s, Coney Island was flush with amusement parks, and these two were the most famous. The former offered a giant slide for adults and a miniature version of the Swiss Alps, while the latter featured religious-themed attractions like Creation, a panorama based on the Book of Genesis. But a 1911 inferno—one of the city’s worst—demolished Dreamland, while a pair of fires in 1944 caused Luna Park to close.

2. Penn Station

A Krispy Kreme kiosk may be the most exciting thing here nowadays, but in 1910, Penn Station was a breathtaking Beaux Arts masterpiece. Modeled after Italy’s Baths of Caracalla, the original structure boasted Romanesque touches like columns and travertine walls. In 1963, the Pennsylvania Railroad agreed to move underground in exchange for 25 percent ownership of Madison Square Garden, which was built in the old station’s place.

3. The World’s Fair site

Visitors to Flushing Meadows–Corona Park have the 1939–40 and 1964–65 World’s Fairs to thank for the outdoor oasis: The removal and relocation of the global expo’s 140 pavilions led to the creation of the enormous green space. But some artifacts from those two majestic events remain: The Unisphere (built in 1964) is still there, along with the disused shell of the once-colorful New York State Pavilion.

4. Starlight Park

Amusement-park mania moved uptown when this spot opened in the Bronx in 1918. Referred to as a “blue collar country club” in The New York Times, Starlight had a roller coaster, a swimming pool, carnival games and a 15,000-seat stadium that hosted circuses, wrestling matches and more. In 1942, a fire destroyed the grounds.

5. Paradise Garage

This Soho hot spot reinvented the rules of the nightclub when it opened in 1976. Entry was by invitation only, and inside, there was no food, and nope, not even alcohol. Music and dancing were the point: The soundtrack came courtesy of DJ Larry Levan, whose regular weekend gigs became known as “Saturday Mass” to his followers. Paradise Garage is now a Verizon facility.

6. Ebbets Field

Best known as the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, this Flatbush stadium’s biggest moment happened on April 15, 1947, when 28-year-old Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in front of 26,623 spectators. Demand for tickets eventually outpaced the stadium’s capacity,  and squabbles over building a larger park led owner Walter O’Malley to move the team to Los Angeles in 1958. Ebbets Field was torn down in 1960.

7. Max’s Kansas City

This iconic nightclub was the kind of place where you could see Andy Warhol holding court in the back room, have a beer served to you by Debbie Harry and watch a live performance by Patti Smith—all in the same night. Though it was a gathering spot for the glam- and punk-rock scenes, the club closed for good in 1982, and is now a deli.

8. Horn & Hardart

New York was one of the first cities to get Automats, thanks to Horn & Hardart, whose original location opened in Times Square on July 2, 1912. By the 1950s, the company was serving more than 350,000 diners a day—macaroni and cheese, baked beans and creamed spinach were popular offerings—in its 50 New York eateries. The company’s last location closed in 1991.

9. The Waldorf and Astoria Hotels

In 1893, William Waldorf Astor opened the 11-story Waldorf Hotel on Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street. Four years later, his cousin John Jacob Astor IV opened the Astoria in an adjacent lot, and built his lodging house five stories taller. (Oh, snap!) Eventually the two properties merged and moved to Park Avenue uptown, and the Empire State Building rose where the old hotels once stood.

10. Paramount Theatre

This 3,664-seat Times Square theater opened in 1926 and set box-office records in its first week, registering $80,000
in receipts. Before it closed in the 1960s, the cinema hosted artists like Frank Sinatra and the Beatles; proving that nothing gold can stay, a Hard Rock Cafe now occupies the space.

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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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