Located at the corner of Surf Avenue and Henderson’s Walk, the Shore Hotel is one of Coney Island’s oldest remaining buildings. Built c. 1903, this wood-framed structure historically housed a series of small-scale hotels and amusement uses that were common in Coney Island at the time. It is possible that building was originally built and owned by Herman Popper, as Popper owned much of the land near Henderson’s Walk between the Bowery and Surf Avenue at the turn of the twentieth century.
The ever-changing establishments occupying the Shore Hotel are captured in several photographs from the 1920s and 1930s. A photo from the 1920s shows the building with a Nedick’s stand, a popular chain selling hotdog and orange juice, on the ground floor. The full splendor of the original Shore Hotel building was captured in a 1932 photo, when the building housed a frozen custard stand and the Newark House hotel, which advertised furnished rooms for rent. A 1936 photograph indicates that the Shore Hotel was a later home of a long-time Coney Island establishment, Paddy Shea’s Gilsey House. Patrick Shea opened his first Coney Island establishment, an Irish restaurant named the St. Dennis, in 1890 on the Bowery. In 1903, he first opened Paddy Shea’s Gilsey House in a building on the Bowery. The establishment remained on the Bowery for the next few decades, rebuilding several times after fires. However, Shea’s refusal to sell alcohol illegally during Prohibition led to its eventual closure. Sometime between 1932 (and most likely after the repeal of Prohibition in late 1933) and 1936, Shea relocated his business to the Shore Hotel building, reopening “Paddy Shea’s Gilsey House” and “Paddy Shea’s Beer Garden.” His signage advertised that he sold frankfurters, hamburgers, roast beef, and of course, beer, among other Coney Island favorites. The building in the 1930s continued to house a hotel on its upper floors.
The Shore Hotel building typifies the lively mixture of small-scale amusements and accessory businesses in Coney Island in the 20th century. In fact, until a few years ago, the Shore Hotel still operated as a hotel, renting rooms by the hour. Although its wood clapboards have been replaced with a synthetic material and an ornate corner cupola has been lost for decades, the building still retains a great deal of its turn-of-the-century architectural ornamentation, most notably its cornice with garland details and the pediment on its Henderson’s Walk façade.