View Full Version : Childs Restaurant Landmarked

February 7th, 2003, 02:34 PM
February 5, 2003

A Piece of Coney Island's Past Wins Landmark Status


The former crown jewel of the Childs restaurant chain in Coney Island is festooned with terra cotta ornamentation. City officials hope landmark designation for the building will generate further redevelopment of the boardwalk.

On the ground floor, shelves of books fill the space. One flight up, the guts of a candy manufacturing business lie about.

But once, the ornate building on the Coney Island Boardwalk was a crown jewel in the Childs restaurant chain, a haven for the throngs of working men and women relaxing in what was then known as the world's largest playground.

Yesterday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission deemed all that, along with the structure and its terra cotta ornamentation, a heritage worth saving.

"It's a very special place," said Robert B. Tierney, chairman of the commission. "It's different in February, but it's still quite striking as it sits there majestically evoking the past, looking out to the sea."

Mr. Tierney, 59, like many New Yorkers of a certain age, remembers the clean white-tiled Childs restaurants from trips to the city as a boy, although he did not visit the Coney Island branch.

But Arlene Simon, who grew up in a three-room apartment in Brighton Beach, used to walk along Coney Island's Boardwalk with her friends from Lincoln High School every Friday afternoon.

"Other people go to the Hamptons; we would walk the Boardwalk," Ms. Simon, president of Landmark West!, an Upper West Side preservation group, said, chuckling. "We would stop at the library and go to Nathan's and get hot dogs, and then we would also go to Childs."

Ms. Simon said she loved Childs. "There just was something about the building, there was something special about the aura of the place."

Although few people near the deserted Boardwalk yesterday seemed to know much about the building ("It looks more like a bathhouse," one community advocate said), it has a storied history. It was built around 1923 by Dennison & Hirons in what the landmark designation report calls a fanciful resort style combining elements of Spanish Colonial Revival, rare in New York, "with numerous maritime allusions that refer to its seaside location."

The building is festooned with elaborate, colorful terra cotta nautical motifs, including Neptune rising from the sea draped in seaweed, European ships and intricate crustaceans and other sea creatures.

The terra cotta was manufactured by the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company from models by a prominent sculptor, Max Keck, an approach that signified the importance of the project to the Childs chain and the manufacturer, said Susan Tunick, president of Friends of Terra Cotta, a national preservation group that focuses on saving ceramic surfaces.

"There are at least six or seven colors in the glazing of the details," said Ms. Tunick, a leader of the effort to gain landmark status for the building.

Although Childs had several restaurant buildings with similar terra cotta ornaments, like dolphins and seahorses, in the city, they are almost unrecognizable, she said. One is now a McDonald's in the flower district, with its ornaments obscured and painted brown.

So, Ms. Tunick said, the Childs on Coney Island, about a block west of the Cyclones' minor-league baseball stadium, is "a unique example" because it remains intact.

But in designating it a landmark, the commissioners recognized more than the vivid blues, greens, yellows and other colors that pop from the tan stucco facade, now chipped to show the brick beneath. They also recognized, with evident emotion, the social history the building evokes.

Childs, which started in Lower Manhattan, grew to become one of the largest restaurant chains in the country and pioneered the self-service cafeteria.

The restaurants were outfitted with white-tiled walls and floors and white marble countertops, and the employees dressed in starched white uniforms to convey a sense of cleanliness, the designation report said. A Childs menu from 1900 featured wheat cakes with maple syrup for 10 cents, creamed oyster on toast for 15 cents and roast beef hash with mashed potatoes for 20 cents.

The chain ran into some financial trouble in 1927 when William Childs began serving only vegetarian meals, but the meatless policy was eventually reversed.

A kind of early take on fast-food restaurants, they became icons of elegance and quality at reasonable prices, and Childs was awarded the food service contract for the 1939 World's Fair (more than 16 million hot dogs sold).

Childs found its way into popular culture, with allusions in the Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart song "Manhattan" and the Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman play "You Can't Take It With You." But some New Yorkers found it less than welcoming. Some blacks say that they were refused service.

Eventually, the Riese Brothers acquired the chain, and the restaurants no longer used the Childs name.

The past appeared to be fully present in the imaginations of the commissioners as they voted to designate the building a landmark, the first designation under Mr. Tierney's tenure as chairman.

Barely choking back tears, Meredith J. Kane described the importance of retaining reminders of the 1920's, the Depression and beyond.

"It really evokes an era that is really so much passing into literature and film," Ms. Kane said.

Sherida E. Paulsen, who was until recently chairwoman of the commission, mentioned the "moving testimony" that the commissioners had heard about "this building's place in the development of fast food." It was also important, she said, to be able to designate a building on Coney Island for a change: "Everything else is a ride."

Laura Hansen, executive director at Place Matters, an urban preservationist group, said, "For us it's representative of a concept that was important to so many neighborhoods in New York, which is the cafeteria."

Ms. Hansen described Childs as a community hub where older people could eat, teenagers could go to get away from their parents and children could learn how to eat out.

Jeffrey Kroessler, a historian whose grandfather was a longtime Childs waiter, said the place had a civilizing influence.

"All I can tell you is my grandfather grew up on the Liverpool docks and had kind of a rough-and-tumble youth, but he became a waiter at Childs and had the most perfect manners of any man I met," Mr. Kroessler said. "And I think it came from that experience. He was just evidence that good manners is not dependent on good breeding."

Officials hope that the landmark designation will generate further redevelopment of the once-vibrant Coney Island Boardwalk. Minor-league baseball has taken root, and the city will soon announce a new local development corporation to devise a comprehensive plan for the area, said Domenic M. Recchia Jr., the neighborhood's city councilman.

The building has recently been used as a chocolate factory and a book warehouse, but it could become a catering hall or a restaurant, Mr. Recchia said.

"We just can't go around knocking things down," he added. "It brings back the days when people used to go to Coney Island and enjoy themselves."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

February 7th, 2003, 04:56 PM
I've stated this opinion elsewhere...

Other than preserving a boarded up relic of the past, the actual benefit of this status will need time to prove itself.

TLOZ Link5
February 7th, 2003, 07:17 PM
As do many projects undertaken in this city throughout the years. *I recall that it wasn't until the late 1980s that the World Trade Center actually turned a profit for the Port Authority.

February 9th, 2003, 02:06 AM
This is great news - I love this buidling! So much of Coney Island has been destroyed or left to rot. It doesn't need another vacant lot (obviously) but any re-use of a building for pent-up demand is great. KeySpan Park has helped give the impression that Coney Island is coming back, and seeing this and the Stillwell Ave. Subway Station reconstructon is guaranteeing Coney Island's role viability in the 21st century.

Anyone else interested in this wonderous place can check out "Coney Island - Lost and Found". Just came out and it's a gem. Wondorous book!

February 9th, 2003, 02:32 AM
What a unique piece of local NY history, I love this type of *historical knowledge and information. *This story kind of reminds me of the old automat.

February 9th, 2003, 09:42 AM

Large collection of 100 yr old postcards.

Detailing on arches

May 14th, 2003, 02:00 PM
This building was recently landmarked. It is now completely vacant. In the Astella redevelopment plan, it would become a nightclub or return to its original restaurant usage.


There are small murals in between columns on the front of the building.



July 19th, 2003, 11:52 AM



TLOZ Link5
July 19th, 2003, 12:31 PM
It'd make a nice visitors' center, I think.

July 21st, 2003, 10:53 AM
I wouldn't mind it becoming the permantent home of CI USA, museum, etc. *This org. has done some good things in CI and deserves a nice space. *It will anchor the CI development. *Which, by the way, any word on ANYTHING - the nets/devils/olympics sportsplex, hotel, condos, new amusements, waterpark, etc??

July 21st, 2003, 02:33 PM
Well, there's one new ride at Astroland this summer.

July 21st, 2003, 08:45 PM
What's the ride?

Is it any good, is it fun?

July 21st, 2003, 08:47 PM
Lol I'm a bit of a wimp, I don't do those things...

It looks like some variation of a human inverter.
Also not really rides but the minigolf thing opened this year as well as new multiuse fields.

July 21st, 2003, 10:55 PM
Top Spin - Link has a cool photo


July 21st, 2003, 11:08 PM
I would love to see Childs become a beachfront restaurant. Coney needs more restaurants badly.

April 8th, 2006, 06:20 PM
LisaSmith's April 8, 2006 posting: I am trying to find photographs, postcards, history, stories - anything - about Child's Restaurant.

My friend's father was a waiter there for many years, and I'd like to surprise him with a photo or some other memorabilia of the restaurant.

If anyone has a source or can point me in the right direction I'd appreciate it! It's an amazing building... so glad it's being preserved!

Thank you,

April 8th, 2006, 06:43 PM
Hi Lisa!

That is very sweet of you. I am glad to be of help. You can try looking for memorabilia pertaining to Child's restaurant on ebay. They often have postcards, menus, or matchbook covers.

Also, please check out the following links:

www.preserve.org/fotc/infochilds.htm (http://www.preserve.org/fotc/infochilds.htm)

www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/downloads/pdf/reports/childs.pdf (http://www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/downloads/pdf/reports/childs.pdf) (For a detailed history on Child's & info on the Coney Island branch, according to the LPC's designation report)

www.forgotten-ny.com/STREET%20SCENES/Coney2/coney2.html (http://www.forgotten-ny.com/STREET%20SCENES/Coney2/coney2.html) (Scroll halfway)

www.forgotten-ny.com/STREET%20SCENES/queensblvd/queensblvd1.html (http://www.forgotten-ny.com/STREET%20SCENES/queensblvd/queensblvd1.html) (Scroll down to Qns Blvd in Woodside)

www.forgotten-ny.com/NEIGHBORHOODS/woodside/woodside.html (http://www.forgotten-ny.com/NEIGHBORHOODS/woodside/woodside.html) (3/4 down)

www.forgotten-ny.com/NEIGHBORHOODS/sunnyside/sunnyside.html (http://www.forgotten-ny.com/NEIGHBORHOODS/sunnyside/sunnyside.html) (close to the bottom)

www.nyfoodmuseum.org/restau.htm (http://www.nyfoodmuseum.org/restau.htm) (A Child's Restaurant printable menu)

*Please e-mail me at unlockthevault@hotmail.com I sell prints of the 5 boroughs from restored vintage images. I have quite a few of Child's in my collection.

June 18th, 2006, 07:01 AM
I have a coouple questions about the Child's building:

1) Has the adjacent warehouse behind it been landmarked as well?

2) Does the Ricci family (who bought the restaurant and turned it into a chocolate factory) still own the building?

Thanks :)

June 18th, 2006, 07:24 AM

December 13th, 2006, 05:45 PM
New York Daily News
New life on menu for eatery
Coney site to get face-lift


The long-shuttered and graffiti-ridden Childs Restaurant in Coney Island could be reopened as a seaside food court or upscale eatery, the Daily News has learned.

Taconic Investment Partners signed a lease at the landmarked building in August, and also plans to build housing and retail across from the defunct restaurant.

"I think most people are happy with a restaurant coming in," said Community Board 13 District Manager Chuck Reichenthal. "Every year you find another street that didn't have a thing but is now the new 'restaurant row.'"

In addition, a residential building with retail components is being eyed for a 180,000-square-foot lot across W. 21st St. from Childs. How high it will rise has not been determined, said Charles Bendit, chief executive at Taconic.

No restaurant had been chosen for the landmarked terra cotta building, Bendit said, but plans call for a food court, restaurant, grocery store or catering hall.

The restaurant bid is the latest deal to hit Coney Island since developer Thor Equities announced a $2 billion plan to add residential, retail and entertainment to the area.

Until now, however, most of the redevelopment has hinged on glitzy new rides, an indoor water park and a hotel in Coney Island's amusement district - not food and housing.

Reichenthal declined to weigh in on the housing bid, except to say he was opposed to a building that would tower over the parachute jump, now the area's tallest structure.

"The feeling is that nothing should be taller than the parachute jump, that that's the definitive height of the Coney Island amusement district," Reichenthal said.

Bendit would not rule out the possibility that the new building could be taller than the parachute jump.

Childs Restaurant, which opened the first of its nine cafeteria-style diners in 1898, extended to Coney Island in 1922 and included rooftop dancing, said Coney Island historian Michael Immerso.

"Certainly a venue that involves dancing in Coney Island would be consistent with what Childs had in mind," Immerso said. "That would restore something that was synonymous with Coney Island's early days."

Originally published on December 13, 2006

December 13th, 2006, 07:06 PM
The Other Player On The Boardwalk
To Dish It Out At The New Child’s Restaurant

kineticcarnival.blogspot (http://kineticcarnival.blogspot.com/2006/12/other-player-on-boardwalk-to-dish-it.html)
December 13, 2006

http://bp0.blogger.com/_9Gsu_hMGnVk/RX6O3TXTeZI/AAAAAAAAADw/H_1cvVyWlZQ/s400/childs+Grouped.JPG (http://bp0.blogger.com/_9Gsu_hMGnVk/RX6O3TXTeZI/AAAAAAAAADw/H_1cvVyWlZQ/s1600-h/childs+Grouped.JPG)

Joe Sitt and his Thor Equities will be joined on the boardwalk by Charles Bendit and his Taconic Investment Partners (http://www.taconicinvestments.com/index.htm). Having done recent business together they will be doing further business side by side in the New Coney. The only thing between them will be the Cyclone Stadium. Taconic, a real estate investment firm with properties across the country, recently acquired two important parcels west of the stadium: the lot next the park and the Child’s Restaurant building.

As reported by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Taconic signed a 49-year lease for the Child’s two-story building with an open-air mezzanine in August, with the option to extend the lease or purchase the property if the landlord decides to sell. That same month, the company acquired from the City Investment Fund, at no recorded cost, the 168,000-square-foot lot across the street, where the Washington Bathhouse once stood.
“We are developing our plan for Child’s right now,” said Bendit, co-founder of Taconic. “I think ultimately, we’d like to restore it to what it once was, which was a food-type enterprise,” with possibilities including a combination of a restaurant, market and catering service. “I think [plans for the lot] are really going to be predicated on what the EDC and the city come up with.” Bendit added that he didn’t want to go into specifics about Taconic’s wishes for the site before the city made its final zoning determinations. But according to Recchia, housing is definitely on the table.
The Fund bought the lot in June for $90 million from Thor Equities — $77 million more than Thor had paid for the property only a year earlier. The move has been criticized by some locals as a sign that Thor CEO Joseph Sitt also intends to flip the 13 acres he’s been buying up between KeySpan Park and the New York Aquarium.
Founded in 1997, Taconic Investment Partners is a fully integrated real estate investment company that acquires office and multifamily properties. The firm also manages its own properties and provides asset and property management, leasing and financial reporting services.

Developer To Resurrect Once-Thriving Coney Landmark (http://www.brooklyneagle.com/categories/category.php?category_id=27&id=10079)
[B]see full article here on CIUSA BBS (http://www.coneyisland.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=news;action=display;num=1165919305) {Courtesy of Brooklyn Daily Eagle}

February 10th, 2008, 12:58 PM
Hello, Lisa and others:

Your questions re Childs are more than two years old but perhaps you and others can answer mine.

I knew Manhattan in the late 30s, 40s, and 50s, growing up. My grandmother used to take me to the Automat. I do not recall any visits to a Childs.

1. How would you and others compare the Automat and Childs?
The Automat was always self-service. That is how the Wired article also describes the Childs chain. But you, Lisa, mention a friend whose father was a waiter at Childs. Which was it, self-service or waitered, or both, or did it evolve?

2. How would others desribe the similarities and differences between the two chains? Different prices, ambience, operating hours?

I'd appreciate it if could send this to others on the threadc who might help me.

All the best.

fbenjul (fbenjul@hotmail.com)

Madison, WI.


lizbeth li
February 10th, 2008, 01:07 PM
I worked in the Child's on 42nd right near Grand Central. It was much more upscale than the Automat, a little old blue-haired ladies sort of place, prim and proper, wrought iron and tiffany with the tiles, and many of the help throwback servant Irish and the clientele more WASP. The food was uninspiring but good, good basic steaks, nice gravies, but hardly gourmet. This restaurant (and others I think) was very long and thin, went the entire block from 42nd to 43rd. I was the last hired and had a station a block away from the kitchen, so if I forgot a pat of butter, I had a two block walk.

March 10th, 2008, 07:04 AM
New Coney Island roller rink to skate into Childs Restaurant Building

Monday, March 10th 2008, 4:00 AM

Coney Island (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Coney+Island)'s Boardwalk is getting a new pink roller rink.
Lola Staar (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Lola+Staar)'s Dreamland Roller Rink will open March 22 in the Childs Restaurant Building, a city landmark.

"It's extraordinary," Lola Staar owner Dianna Carlin (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Dianna+Carlin) said.

"Having a roller rink in the Childs building is a dream come true, for myself and Coney Island. It's a positive thing for the neighborhood."

Designer Tommy Hilfiger (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Tommy+Hilfiger+Corporation) and Glamour magazine (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Glamour+Magazine) chipped in to pay for the rink after Carlin won a competition that asked entrants to write about their "dream come true."

Hilfiger and Glamour will film Carlin as she renovates the hot-pink rink - which might showcase burlesque shows - for a television documentary.

Childs opened the first of its nine cafeteria-style diners in 1898. The chain expanded to Coney Island in 1922 and featured rooftop dancing before closing in the 1950s.

Copyright 2008 The New York Daily News.

May 22nd, 2008, 01:15 PM
May 21, 2008

Dreamland Looks to Reopen this Summer


On March 22nd (http://gothamist.com/2008/03/23/roller_skating.php) Lola Staar opened up her Dreamland Roller Rink (http://gothamist.com/2008/03/21/freewheelin_bro.php) inside the historic Childs Building on the Coney Island Boardwalk. The temporary rink was paid for by Glamour and Tommy Hilfiger, who sponsored a contest Staar won.

At the time, Staar (real name Diana Carlin) hoped to move the rink into the former Washington Bath House after her time ended at Childs, but without sponsors helping out monetarily she's on her own to reopen the rink (http://www.dreamlandrollerrink.com/Home.html).

Lola has been working night and day to reopen the Dreamland Roller Rink. She has overcome many obstacles in the labyrinth of obtaining permits and insurance for the rink. These obstacles have added exorbitant costs to the reopening of Dreamland! Costs that we simply cannot cover with the budget in our business plan. After some generous donations we are very close to being able to reopen.... but we aren't quite there yet! Hence, we need your help to reopen the fabulous Dreamland Roller Rink.
If you'd like to see this great addition stay on Coney Island, toss some change in the donation hat (http://www.dreamlandrollerrink.com/Make_Dreamland_a_Reality.html). Chipping in will even reap you some rewards (http://www.dreamlandrollerrink.com/Make_Dreamland_a_Reality.html), from getting your name glittered on a rollerskate plaque to a season pass to the rink.

Photo by Adrian Kinloch (http://britinbrooklyn.squarespace.com/britinbrooklyn_photo_blog/2008/3/23/lola-staars-dreamland-came-true.html).


2003-2008 Gothamist LLC (http://www.gothamistllc.com/).