5. Gala Amusement Park (late 1890s to mid-1920s)
Glen H. Curtiss Airport on the site of Gala Amusement Park / Photo courtesy of Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.
Gala Amusement Park was located in East Elmhurst, Queens from around the late 1890s to the mid-1920s. The amusement park was part of North Beach, originally called Bowery Bay Beach, built by piano manufacturer William Steinway in partnership with George Ehret. At the time, North Beach was referred to as “The Coney Island of Queens” since it attracted more people than many of the parks in Brooklyn by the turn of the century.
Gala Amusement Park was known for its carousels, hot air balloons, and a Ferris wheel, supposedly the first in the east coast. Visitors to the amusement park would often see theater acts, attend vaudeville shows, and witness boat races at North Beach, yet many of these festivities shut down as a result of Prohibition and pollution of the nearby Flushing and East Rivers. The site of the Gala Amusement Park later became the Glen H. Curtiss Airport, which then became North Beach Airport, and finally LaGuardia Airport.