This bizarre 250-foot tall metal Erector Set sticks out like a sore thumb. It also hasn't done anything useful over the last 50 years except for keeping paint companies in business. It does stand as a proud survivor of a bygone era, however. It also is so enormous that you can't help but notice it wherever you are in Coney Island, like it or not. So, you need to have the scoop on it before visiting, because whoever you go with definitely is going to ask you what this thing is.
In the late 1930s, just before the US entered World War II, there was a retired Navy officer living in New Jersey. This retired officer, unlike a normal retiree, had an imagination that surpassed even the amount of free time on his hands. So, one day he decided to build a contraption that would help military paratroopers practice parachuting without actually having to go up in a plane.
He built a slightly smaller but nonetheless gigantic version of this Parachute Jump tower in his front yard. While his neighbors must not have been particularly pleased, random people from all over would knock on his door and ask for ride. The constant requests undoubtedly are what eventually unleashed the the inner businessman in him.
Determined to make his creation a commercial success, the retired officer flung himself into an even more ambitious undertaking, namely the construction of an official Parachute Jump for the New York World's Fair of 1939.
This is the Parachute Jump tower you see at Coney Island today. It was purchased by the owners of Steeplechase Park following the world's fair for $150,000. Some might describe it aptly as Coney's very own Eiffel Tower.
Even though the Parachute Jump ended up being not particularly profitable because the stronger seashore winds often prevented multiple parachutes from being run at the same time, it was a very popular ride until closing in the mid-1960s.
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