1888 One Hundred Years Ago

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Coney Island’s eroding shoreline threatened one of its principal attractions, the famed Brighton Beach Hotel. “During the past two years,” noted Harper’s Weekly , “the ocean has been dashing wildly under the hotel itself, a large part of which perilously rested upon piles.”

The Brighton Beach Company decided upon a novel solution: move the entire hotel several hundred feet north, toward Sheepshead Bay. Workers jacked the four-thousand-ton structure onto flatcars on two dozen parallel sets of railroad tracks. An elaborate system of blocks and hawsers evenly distributed the pulling force of six steam locomotives across the hotel’s four-hundred-foot width.

The locomotives made their first tentative tug on April 10 at 8:45 A.M. “The six engines,” reported Harper ’s, “with full head of steam on, began to move. The cables, stretching out fanlike from the engines to all parts of the hotel, quickly tightened; the engines for an instant seemed unequal to the task; but it was only for an instant, as the mammoth structure was already in motion.” On the first day of its journey the Brighton Beach Hotel crawled some 117 feet as crowds of Brooklynites and New Yorkers gathered to watch the spectacle. By the following week the hotel had traversed the remaining 500 feet to its new, dry resting place, where it stood until it was demolished in 1923.