While theme parks like Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Six Flags are known for having some of the biggest rides and for being the epitomes of technological advancement, an approximately four-mile long peninsula in south Brooklyn helped pioneer all of this: Coney Island.

Coney Island, once called nicknames like “Nickel Empire,” “America’s Playground,” “Sodom By the Sea,” “Electric Eden,” and “Poor Man’s Paradise,” is much more than its entertainment side. Millions of tourists venture out here all the time, but most don’t realize the tremendous social, technological and economic impacts Coney Island has had on areas even outside of New York City. It was hard to narrow down Coney Island’s top secrets, but here are the most interesting ones we felt you should know about.

27. The Dutch Likely Named Coney Island After Rabbits

The name “Coney Island” isn’t recent at all: in fact, it goes back to around the mid-1600s, which was a bit after Dutch explorer Henry Hudson came across Coney Island in its barren state. The Lenape tribes knew the island as “the land without shadows,” but the Dutch soon renamed it Konijnen Eiland, or “Rabbit Island,” since there was presumably a large rabbit population along its sandy coastlines. There are other theories regarding Coney Island’s name origin, but this is the most popular.

 

26. Coney Island Was The Birthplace Of North America’s First Permanent Enclosed Amusement Park

The enclosed Sea Lion Park in 1897. “Shoot the Chutes” is on the right shown by the sign, while the “Flip Flap Railway” is near the entrance on the left. Image from the Coney Island History Project Collection

Though Coney Island was a resort area since the Coney Island Hotel opened in 1829, it had its humble beginnings as an amusement center with Paul Boyton’s creation of Sea-Lion Park in 1895. While amusement parks like Lake Compounce date back to 1846, one main difference set Sea-Lion Park apart: Boyton put a fence around it and charged a single admission fee at the entrance. Attractions included an aquatics show and a water chute (which Boyton moved from Chicago). In 1903, Luna Park replaced Sea-Lion Park.