What is this?

Painted on Asbury Park’s Wonder Bar, this is a reproduction of the original ‘Tillie’ faces found on the walls of Palace Amusements.

“Tillie?” You go around naming murals on walls?

George C. Tilyou, better known as the owner of Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park (and the father of the contemporary amusement park), had a marketing strategy for his Coney Island parks: “his trademark image of a grinning face (replete with twice the usual number of teeth) appeared on the entrance, tickets, and all printed material.”[1]

Here’s a photo of the George C. Tilyou’s Coney Island face, photographed in March 2008:

In an “homage” to Tilyou’s original funny-face icon, Worth Thomas designed a similar (though not identical, under threat of copyright infringement) fifteen-foot tall face in the mid-1950s, painted twice–for two walls of Palace Amusements.[2] Why a giant grinning face, of all things to pay homage to? According to the Palace Museum Online, the face “stylistically continued a tradition begun in 1897 when Coney Island amusements impresario George Cornelius Tilyou introduced a fun face as the logo of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island. Tilyou so successfully integrated the image throughout his park that most other amusement entrepreneurs followed with designs of their own.”[3] (I’ve never heard of other parks using the face, though.)

So, to answer the original question: Tilyou–> Tillie. That’s all.

Okay, so why reproduce a random mural? It’s just a face.

Tillie is/was one of the most recognizable icons of the Jersey Shore. Don’t ask me why.

When there were plans to demolish the Palace Amusements building, a whole SWARM of people stood up and fought it for years. They called themselves ‘Save Tillie’ and managed to have the building listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places. But, well, they didn’t own the property; eventually economics won out, and the building was demolished in 2004… but NOT before Save Tillie managed to salvage the murals. (Here’s a picture.)[4]

So… where’s Tillie now?

In storage somewhere, waiting for an appropriate opportunity for display to arise.[5]


[1] Ford, Robert C., and Ady Milman, George C. Tilyou–Developer of the Contemporary Amusement Park, August 1 2000; accessed June 15 2008.

[2] Mister Snitch, A Tale of Two Tillies, August 2 2005; accessed June 15 2008.

[3] Palace Online Museum, 1955-1956, 2005; accessed June 15 2008.

[4] Palace Online Museum, Save Tillie, 2005; accessed June 15 2008.

[5] Crane, Bob, Asbury Park redevelopers disregarding historic artifacts, May 11 2008; accessed June 15 2008.
(If that link doesn’t work, try Backstreets.com)

(This bibliography is absolutely improper, but hey, at least I’m citing my sources.)