Monday, June 29, 2009
Young's Pier Fire - 1912
Many of you have read my posts on John Lake Young's Million Dollar Pier and the images I have posted of his home, the Italianate villa, Number One Atlantic Ocean, located at the end of his pier.
Before the Million Dollar Pier, Mr. Young had an interesting start in the amusement business. He was a genuine product of the AC Boardwalk and began his career managing a carousel built by master German craftsman Gustav Dentzel. ( I have posted images of the Dentzel family carousels in the past .)
Young assisted the immigrant with the English language, and watched in amazement as he saw Dentzel become wealthy collecting all of those pennies and nickels as Young operated the beautiful, hand-carved carousel.
John Young had dreams and tried his hand at a few boardwalk enterprises but lacked capital. While serving a brief stint as an Atlantic City policeman Young had a chance meeting one evening on the boardwalk that changed his life. While on duty he met and befriended retired, wealthy businessman Stewart McShea and the two discussed Young's ideas for cashing in on the Boardwalk boom.
Young knew the carousel business from his experience with Dentzel. Together with McShea he purchased a beautiful, brand-new, hand-carved carousel. The aggressive Young wanted to operate the carousel seven days a week but McShea was a devote Christian. They compromised and the carousel organ played spiritual songs for the devout audience on Sundays while the carousel took a day off.
Their next enterprise was a big one. They bought the less than successful Applegate's Pier in 1891 and named it Young and McShea's Pier. Young had a talent for the amusement business and the pier was an instant success. Nineteenth-century diva Sarah Bernhardt made her Atlantic City debut at the pier, and Young added one of the boardwalk's first thrill rides, the Flip-Flop Railroad. Somewhere down the line the pier became Young's Ocean Pier and he promoted himself to Captain.
Captain John Lake Young took part of his new fortune and built another larger pier; Young's Million Dollar Pier. It opened in 1906 and the Captain made another fortune.
He was also lucky to have had the vision and funds to build the new pier because on March 29, 1912, Young's Ocean Pier was lost in a mysterious blazing inferno.
The image I am posting is a very rare "photo - postcard" of the fire. I was lucky to find it at a flea market in Cape May this past weekend.