6. Coney Island’s Former Elephant Hotel (And Later, Brothel)

Elephant Colossus
A sideview of Coney Island’s Elephant Hotel. Image via Wikimedia Commons

A victim of Coney Island’s once frequent raging fires was the Elephant Colossus. From 1885 until 1896, Coney Island had the most fantastical of hotels: the Elephant Hotel (also called the “Elephantine Colossus” or “Elephant Colossus”). It was 200 feet tall with a gilded crescent and stood proudly and prominently on Surf Avenue and West 12th street. James Lafferty designed the 12-story building with 31 rooms, even calling it the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

According to Brooklyn Magazine, inside the elephant was a concert hall, events bazaar, museum, observatory, cigar store, and diorama. Its legs were spiral staircases leading to higher rooms and its eyes were telescopes. However, “tourists got tired of the gimmick, and prostitutes started moving in.” Thus, according to the New York Historical Society, it then became more of an Elephant brothel. But even the sex workers began to get tired of it, so the Elephant Colossus was pretty empty by the time a fire destroyed it in 1896. You can read more about some of Coney Island’s other bizarre attractions here.