As Coney Island Transforms, Visionary Horace Bullard Is Remembered

Horace Bullard (Source:
Horace Bullard (Source:

Anyone who takes a trip to Coney Island these days can see how the boardwalk is changing. The beach looks cleaner than ever, corporations are racing to capitalize on the boardwalk and new attractions are being planned in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. While the news of a reinvigorated Coney Island, which has received a flood of city and federal dollars, is mostly a good thing, you couldn’t blame the surviving family members of Horace Bullard’s family to witness the transformation with a bit of bitterness.

A fascinating New York Times report tracks the life of Bullard, the brains behind the Kansas Fried Chicken chain, who spent a fortune buying up Coney Island real estate with dreams to convert the boardwalk into an amusement paradise. Here is an excerpt which summarizes Bullard’s amazing life and ambition:

For over 30 years, Horace Bullard’s visions for Coney Island amounted to little more than a boardwalk of broken dreams.
His plans for year-round amusement parks and bustling commerce for full-time employment never came to fruition. The properties he bought up in the 1970s and ‘80s – the Shore Theater, the Thunderbolt roller coaster and the Playland Arcade — either remain dilapidated and largely vacant, or have been utterly vanquished.
And while a burst of new retail development and two additional amusement parks have been attracting more visitors to Coney Island, Mr. Bullard’s ideas for a few key parcels seem stalled again. He died of Lou Gehrig’s disease in April, prompting his lone heir, his daughter, Jasmine, to remove his properties, including the decrepit but landmark-status Shore Theater, from the market for the first time in years.

You can read the entirety of the article, which traces Bullard’s childhood love of Coney Island, his rise to millionaire businessman and his failures to get the city to buy into his plans to turn Coney Island into a premier attraction site by clicking here.