Luna Park was a wonderland unlike anything the world has seen before or since. It was the brainchild of Elmer “Skip” Dundy and Frederic Thompson. According to the documentary “Coney Island” Dundy had sold the bankrupt Union Pacific railroad and Frederick Thompson was an architect with a drinking problem. Together this unusual duo created a ride called “A Trip to the Moon” and exhibited it at the 1901 Pan-American International Exposition. George C. Tilyou saw the ride there and told the pair to bring their “Trip to the Moon” with them to Steeplechase Park. After the 1902 season Tilyou asked for a larger cut of the ride’s profits, which prompted Thompson and Dundy to consider buying their own park. They purchased Captain Paul Boyton’s Sea Lion Park, a “ramshackle cluster of attractions.” The pair tore everything but the Shoot-the-Chutes down as a new style of amusement park was built over the winter of 1902-1903. On May 16, 1903 Luna Park opened at night. The legend has it that the duo had so little money they combed the beach for change for the ticket takers. As Albert Bigelow Paine said in 1904’s “Century Magazine”, “A long festoon of electric light leaped from one side of the park to the other, and was followed by a second and a third. Then there was a perfect maze of them. Tall towers that had grown dim suddenly broke forth in electric outlines and gay rosettes of color, as the living spark of light traveled hither and thither, until the place was transformed into an enchanted garden, of such Aladdin never dreamed.”
The good times did not last long. In February, 1907 Elmer Dundy died and Thompson was set a adrift. Five years later he went bankrupt and the bank took Luna from Thompson. Although the park was fun after he left all of the creativity was gone. Luna, under the direction of investors and money men, operated until 1944. Fires that year caused the park to limp through the end of the season and it remained closed throughout 1945. The next year the park was closed and sold to a group that demolished it. An undignified end to a beautiful play land.