Poised majestically on Dreamland Pier, it used to announce the arrivals and departures of steamships traveling from Brooklyn and the tip of Manhattan.
Then, a fire at the Coney Island amusement park in 1911 caused the three-foot-by-three-foot, 500-pound behemoth to sink to the depths of the Atlantic where it hugged the ocean floor for the next 98 years.
The historic Dreamland bell, recovered last November by local commercial divers Gene Ritter and Louis Scarcella and members of their diving team, is having its horn hailed and tooted by a brand-new generations of fans, who can admire the tintinnabulum at Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon Street, where it will remain on exhibit in the lobby through October 23; weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed on Columbus Day).
Borough President Marty Markowitz feted the artifact and its salvagers, including divers John D’Aquino and Paul Bartha, and Coney Island historian Charles Denson, during a welcome home reception, marveling at how the bell was unearthed beneath 25 feet of water not far from where the Dreamland Park ferry pier stood off West 8th Street.
The bell, inscribed with “James Gregory, New York, 1885” for its manufacturer and casting date, was discovered in good condition when it was hoisted from the sea with inflatable bags and towed to Gateway Marina on Flatbush Avenue where a crane lugged it onto land.
Sometimes described as “the Bible brought to Brooklyn with hints of showmanship,” Dreamland was the brainchild of Tammany Hall businessman William H. Reynolds, luring close to 40,000 revelers a day during its illustrious six-year existence.
It wowed them with magnificent rides, unstoppable thrills and ivory white towers, bathed in the glow of a million electric light bulbs until the early evening of May 27, 1911 when an electric light slipped into hot tar and engulfed the world-famous amusement pier in flames.
©2009 Community News Group
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