|Dreamland Amusement Park at Coney Island lies in ruins after a fire on May 2, 1911|
Toward dawn, a lion appeared at the Creation Gate, its mane on fire. It ran down Surf Avenue and into the “Rocky Road to Dublin” scenic railway where it climbed to the top of a reproduction of Blarney Castle and was shot dead with 24 bullets in its head.
The next day, the lion, whose name turned out to be Black Prince, was skinned and put on display for ten cents a look. Lion’s teeth were also for sale as souvenirs, and before long, stories were being told all over South Brooklyn of wild animals performing circus tricks all by themselves in vacant lots. Usually the person telling the story hadn’t seen them, but he had it on good authority from someone who had that a few of the escaped animals from Dreamland were still on the loose. The stories were told for years, somewhat reminiscent of the “alligators in New York sewers” stories.
Dreamland Park had opened on May 14, 1904, one of the three giant amusement parks at Coney. Luna Park and Steeplechase Park were the other two.
The Coney Island History project has launched a new exhibit about the Dreamland fire. you can read more about that in this New York Post article.