BROOKLYN — Manhattan shouldn’t boast too much about the theater buildings they moved around in the redevelopment of 42nd Street in recent years. Brooklyn could move whole hotels in the late 1880s.
April 3, 1888, was moving day for the Hotel Brighton a.k.a. the Brighton Beach Hotel. The beach was eroding and waves were lapping at the doors of the hotel. Something had to be done as the building was in danger of being swept out to sea. Its owner decided to save his hotel. He contracted the Brooklyn & Brighton Beach Rail Road Company to lay 24 tracks under the 174-room, 3-story hotel and load it on 112 cars for movement 600 feet further inland.
The April 4th World described the amazing feat:
Simultaneously six throttles were thrown open — first gradually, then to their full. The music of the guy ropes and tackle was weird and Wagnerian; then the tug of war began. Panting and puffing, the iron horses strained every fibre of their mechanical muscle. For a moment, and a moment only, they tugged in vain, their immense drive wheels revolved with perceptible swiftness; then, as if with a mighty effort, they forged ahead. Slowly but surely the mammoth structure followed. The puzzling problem as to what was to be the fate of Brighton Beach Hotel had been solved. Shouts of joyous approval and triumph arose from the small army of workmen and spectators which was caught up and echoed by six brazen throats in shrill and prolonged blasts.
The hotel had been opened to the public in July of 1878 offering “broad verandas, beds of flowers, the seclusion and quietude of a family hotel of the first order, and private railroad connection to New York City.” It was an enormous, low-slung, mansarded, wood-frame stick-style building topped with ornate Victorian cast-iron cresting.
Brighton attracted businessmen and their families, white-collar office workers, clerks in insurance firms, and salesmen with manufacturing companies. One 1890 newspaper called them “good middle-class Brooklynites.” After 1888, guests could listen to Anton Seidl’s direct serenades at the bandstand.
The hotel survived at its new location until it was demolished in 1923.