A picture post card depicting Childs Restaurant at Coney Island*****


Title of Installation:

(Former) Childs Restaurant Building*

Materials Used:

Polychromed terra cotta

General Description:

"The Childs Restaurant on the Boardwalk at Coney Island was one of the first from this company to adapt the design to the building’s specific location. Built just after the completion of the subway which was to bring huge crowds of New Yorkers to the area, the Coney Island outlet of Childs, 

with its elaborate and colorful ornament, was designed to fit this resort location. It was so successful that the Childs Company built a similar one 

on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City a few years later. ...The company opened a small restaurant at Surf Avenue and 12th Street in 1917. 

The destruction of this store in 1923 (due to street widening), and the area’s growing popularity led to the opening of their largest and most 

decorative outlet, at the Boardwalk and 21st Street... . This new building was designed by the architectural firm of Dennison & Hirons.  

...Architects Dennison & Hirons usually designed their buildings in either a restrained classical or Art Deco style. At Coney Island, however, 

they created building in a style that was quite different from their other work, but appropriate for this setting. The Childs Restaurant on the Boardwalk was designed in resort style to go along with the existing “unique fairyland environments for dreamers.” In an area filled with an eye-popping 

array of shapes, colors and lights, a building had to be unusual to attract customers. The amusement parks set the tone, with huge plaster figures, large structures 

with unexpected shapes, and thousands of twinkling lights beckoning patrons. Other businesses sought to create their own sense of 

uniqueness, adding towers and turrets, colors, and roof gardens. On the Childs Restaurant building, the colorful terra-cotta ornament in 

unique maritime motifs, as well as its large size and fine design helped it stand out from the many flimsy shacks nearby which accommodated 

the area’s various entertainments. A contemporary magazine called  this building “One of the most encouraging tendencies manifested of late years in 

building circles to recognize good architecture as a distinct asset strengthening to the prestige of their business and increasing the volume of their patronage.”

The Childs Restaurant building is faced with plain stucco, which serves as a background for exuberant bursts of ornament located at specific 

points on the facade. On the rounded window openings high on the end piers, there is so much ornament that it has been called 

“Churrigueresque,” linking it to the Spanish Baroque period in which exaggerated ornament in the form of elaborate curving and twisted 

forms, spiral volutes, and florid patterns adorned buildings. This style, with its profuse and lively ornamentation , was not widely used in this 

country, but it came to be associated with buildings designed for entertainment or leisure activities such as movie palaces. Dennison & Hirons were 

well-versed in classical design principles, and they used this system as a base for the Childs building, framing windows and doors with moldings and swags, 

crowning end piers with urns, and decorating arch spandrels with rondels. The difference is that within this framework, the ornament is composed of an agglomera-

tion of seashells, wriggling fish in high-spirited poses, grimacing gargoyle heads, sailing ships and the sea god Neptune, many draped with dripping sea-

weed. Originally, large arched openings along the Boardwalk and the West 21st Street facade framed huge windows that enabled restaurant patrons to enjoy views 

of the ocean and the passing crowds. These arches were supported by multi-colored marble columns topped with “Ionic” capitals composed of fish and seashells 

rendered in terra cotta. Terra-cotta moldings, also with curving fish and cockle shells, border the arches where traditional egg and dart moldings 

would have been. ...The colors of the terra cotta applied to this building were quite striking and unusual. Working closely with the terra cotta 

artists of the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company, the designers were able to produce finely rendered terra cotta ornament in bright, original colors 

which were eye-catching at the time and remain so today. According to the same article, The scheme of coloration in the detail involved the interflowing of different colors and glazes to produce naturalistic effects in such motives as the dripping seaweed of the large oval windows 

on the flanking towers, the varying colors of other forms of under-sea life and contrasting textures of wet and dry suggestion, often upon 

the same piece and requiring not only the most intelligent artistry in the necessary hand application but the nicest manipulation of chemical 

formula in the problems of glazing and firing. Bright and mat surface effects intermingle in the relief upon a ground surface of somewhat 

gritty texture, the varying tints extending from softly toned white to delicate shades of blue, yellow, green and tawny buff..."*

Technical Information (Size,mfg., etc.):

The terra cotta was manufactured by the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company [of Perth Amboy, NJ] 

from models by a prominent sculptor, Max Keck, an approach that signified the importance of 

the project to the Childs chain and the manufacturer, said Susan Tunick, president of Friends of Terra Cotta, 

a national preservation group that focuses on saving ceramic surfaces.**

Year Created:


Does Installation Still Exist?

Yes. It was designated a New York City Landmark in 2003.*



New York



Location of Installation:

2102 Boardwalk (aka 3052-3078 West 21st Street), Brooklyn, NY

(Borough of Brooklyn Tax Map: Block 7071, Lot 130)

Additional Information, Websites, Citations:


Photos of the Childs building: http://www.flickr.com/photos/emilio_guerra/4619378844/

More photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/manzari/1120812583/in/photostream/

And even more: http://jrand.smugmug.com/gallery/3488162#196478279_yDrd7

A photo slide show: http://www.museumplanet.com/tour.php/nyc/ci/13



***Picture post cards from photos by Peter Mauss for Friends of Terra Cotta, http://www.preserve.org/fotc/



Submitted by and Year:

Michael Padwee (tileback101"at"collector.org); December 2010      

A terra cotta roundel***

Two terra cotta roundels on either side of an arched
 window with a terra cotta decorated lintel*** 

There were other Childs Restaurants in New York City. One, in Borough Park, Brooklyn (18th Avenue near 64th Street) no longer exists, but part of its terra cotta ornamentation is being sold on the private market by Olde Good Things architectural salvage. This piece is 74" tall x 48" wide x 14" thick and weighs 600-900 pounds. Photo courtesy of Michael Padwee and Olde Good Things.

Another ex-Childs Restaurant at 45-02 43rd Avenue, Sunnyside, Queens is now a Rite Aid drugstore. (http://www.eatingintranslation.com/2010/01/childs-restaurant.html)

Another terra cotta roundel***

Photo courtesy of Michael Padwee