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Blog: Coney Island on the Peninsula

The 1920s was a period of speculation and growth on the peninsula.

The 1920s was a period of speculation and growth on the peninsula. Grand visions of the future were popping up everywhere. The success of San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach got people thinking about an amusement park on the peninsula.

David Stollery a real estate developer and manager of Coyote Point envisioned the idea which was already a favorite beach spot for many locals.

Entrance. Flickr

Hence, in 1921 a group of investors purchased 90 acres of land between Peninsula and Burlingame Avenues, and from what today is Highway 101 east to the eucalyptus covered Coyote Point. In today’s dollars, they paid $1.6 million for the property.

Once financing was in place things got rolling rather quickly. It would be known as “Pacific City.” The entrance was marked by tall arches, which were at the end of today’s Howard Avenue.

A roller coaster was built next to the entrance. Called “The Comet,” it was billed as the most terrifying dipper in the western United States.

Grand opening ceremonies for Pacific City took place on July 1, 1922. Lasting no less than four days. Over 17,000 fun hungry locals parted with 10 cents to enter the new ‘place to be’ on the peninsula.

Attendance steadily increased day by day, reaching as high as 100,000 by July. Over 24,000 hot dogs were sold in a single day!

Steamers journeyed down from San Francisco and berthed at the new entertainment venue. One ship, The Ocean Wave was converted into a lavish restaurant, providing a unique dining experience.

The 3,200-foot boardwalk featured a huge dance hall, attracting top-notch bands. 2,000 tons of sand was trucked up from Monterey to dress up the beachfront.

In August 2,000 fire chiefs held their national convention at the burgeoning entertainment ‘hot spot.’ Even the renowned Harry Houdini performed there. All looked very rosy.

Not so fast….

The rapid pace of development neglected to take something important into account- proper sewage drainage. This resulted in raw sewage being dumped into the bay right next to the crowded fun spot. Needless to say, the unwelcome odor became an overwhelming problem. County health officials had to close the beach for swimming.

Crowds steadily dwindled due to the polluted water and horrific smell.

The combination of these two issues became the undoing of what might have been. Outdone by their own carelessness the grand vision of a Coney Island in the Bay Area lasted a mere 18 months, until the end of 1923.

All that remains are memories.

Everything else is just history

Some of the photos used in this blog are courtesy of the Local History Room, Redwood City's best-kept secret. The Local History Collection covers all aspects of Redwood City's development, from the 1850s to the present day, with particular emphasis on businesses, public schools, civic organizations, city agencies, and early family histories. The Local History Room is not affiliated with the Redwood City Public Library, but it is inside it. 

Dan Calic

About the Author: Dan Calic

A product of Goodwin (JFK), Henry Ford, Roosevelt, Sequoia High and Canada College, Dan has deep Redwood City roots. He’s witnessed Redwood City transform from a sleepy peninsula town into a thriving high-tech hub.
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