Whenever summer rolls around, visitors head Coney Island to relax by the water without giving much thought to the historic Childs Restaurant Building located right on the boardwalk. Completed in 1924, the iconic, nautical-themed structure is steeped in history that dates back to almost a century. Now, as part of an $180 million investment by the De Blasio administration to drive economic activity in Coney Island, the building has been restored to house a new, five-concept restaurant called Kitchen 21, operated by Legends Hospitality. The ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating the restoration was held on Tuesday, May 16th.
Back in 2014, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) partnered with iStar and nonprofit Coney Island USA to fund the $60 million renovation of the long-vacated building, in addition to the development of the now-connected 5,000-seat Ford Amphitheater (New York City’s first open-air concert venue) and the creation of 40,000-square-feet of open space; the new concept restaurant, Kitchen 21, will offer five unique settings, such as a rooftop wine bar, a test kitchen, a cafe, a clam bar and a gastropub.
In light of the restoration — and in honor of the Childs Building’s history — a special exhibition by the Coney Island History Project will debut on Memorial Day Weekend. Entitled “Neptune Revisited: Terra Cotta Relics from the Childs Building, Last of Coney Island’s Boardwalk Palaces,” the exhibit will include a selection of original polychrome pieces from the structure, including a medallion of King Neptune and an image of the Boardwalk that was hidden for decades. It will also feature unique ephemera, archival photographs and an illustrated timeline of the history of the building.
What originally served as the flagship location for the Childs Restaurant chain has been repurposed several times over the years: it once housed a book warehouse, a roller rink and a candy factory. Today, it’s still noted for its colorful terra-cotta façade and marble columns, which have managed to survive through the years even as other structures in Coney Island have been lost to time. Thanks to the handiwork of the Boston Valley Terra-Cotta Company in Buffalo, New York, the building’s terra-cotta works have now been replicated and replaced.
For more Coney Island history, visit the Coney Island History Project exhibition center, which is open free-of-charge on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. Also make sure to join us for the return of our Secrets of Coney Island tour, kicking off on June 24th:
Next, check out 27 Secrets of NYC’s Coney Island.