Objects on loan from the Coney Island History Project
William F. Mangels, the "Wizard of Eighth Street," was a pioneering ride inventor and amusement manufacturer who was among the first inductees into the Coney Island History Project's Hall of Fame. This fall, Mangels and his work is being celebrated with a special exhibit at the Chapel at Green-Wood Cemetery, where he is interred. "William F. Mangels: Amusing the Masses on Coney Island and Beyond" features a vintage shooting gallery, ride cars, and carousel artifacts, as well as an array of posters, photographs, videos and memorabilia on loan from public and private collections.
Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson was a consultant for the exhibit and loaned artifacts from his archive. On September 6, a group tour on the Green-Wood trolley organized by the Green-Wood Historic Fund and conducted by Charles Denson visited the Coney Island History Project exhibit center, the Mangels' Fire Engine and Pony Cart rides in Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, and other sites associated with Mangels. His former shop building on West Eighth Street is now an office of the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Group from Green-Wood visit Mangels' Fire Engine Ride at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park
According to Mangels' bio on our Hall of Fame page, he immigrated from Germany in 1883 at age sixteen and by 1886 had a small machine shop in Coney Island where he made cast-iron targets for shooting galleries. Mangels then began studying patents and inventing mechanisms for rides. In 1901 he patented an improved version of the overhead jumping-horse suspension for carousels, the standard mechanism still used on most carousels today. He also invented rides such as the Tickler and the Whip and built the mechanisms for countless roller coasters and scenic railways.
The Mangels exhibit is on view daily from 12-6pm at Green-Wood Chapel through October 26. Admission is $5.00.
Group from Green-Wood visit Coney Island History Project
Dennis, Steve and Stacy Vourderis, Charles Denson and Adele Cohen raise a champagne toast to the Cyclops at Bon Voyage Party. September 7, 2014. Photo © Coney Island History Project
On September 7th, the Coney Island History Project wrapped up the summer season and celebrated its 10th anniversary with a Bon Voyage Party for the Spook-A-Rama Cyclops, which has been on display at CIHP's exhibit center for the past two years. Fans of the nearly 60-year-old Coney Island icon turned out to snap souvenir photos, sip ghoulade and eat eyeball cookies. More than 150 guests signed a goodbye card.
Among the bon voyage wishes adorned with hand-drawn hearts and a lipstick kiss were "Oh Cy (sigh!). You're the One Eye ("I") Adore. Have a great trip." and "I grew up with you. Can't wait for your return!" The Vourderis family, owners of Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, home of Spook-A-Rama, wrote "We'll keep an eye on you all the way from Brooklyn...until you return here." Winners of a contest and their guests were treated to a rare behind-the-scenes tour of the classic dark ride led by Wonder Wheel Park's D.J. Vourderis and the Coney Island History Project's Charles Denson.
Two days later, the Cyclops was carefully packed by art shippers and his journey from amusement park to art world began. "Cy" will be part of the exhibit "Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008," which will be on view at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut from January 31 - May 31 2015, before traveling to the San Diego Art Museum and the Brooklyn Museum.
The journey begins! The Spook-A-Rama Cyclops being packed by art shippers at the Coney Island History Project for shipment to the Wadsworth Atheneum. Horn and ears were custom-cushioned. September 9, 2014. Photo © Charles Denson
The Astroland Rocket at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park on History Day, August 9, 2014. Photo © Coney Island History Project
On Sunday, September 21, Charles Denson's new documentary "The Rocket Has Landed," is screening at the Coney Island Film Festival. The 18-minute film tells the story of the Astroland Rocket and its journey back to Coney Island after being damaged by Hurricane Sandy while in storage on Staten Island. The Coney Island History Project, Astroland owner Carol Albert, and Stacy and Steve Vourderis of Wonder Wheel Park join forces to bring the Rocket back to Coney Island, where it is now on display next to the Wonder Wheel. The Rocket documentary premiered at the History Project on History Day, when the space-age amusement attraction was opened to the public for a walk-through for the first time in 45 years.
At the Coney Island Film Festival,"The Rocket Has Landed" is part of Program 16 featuring several Coney Island-themed films at 6pm. Tickets are $8. Advance ticket purchase is recommended. The screening venue is Sideshows by the Seashore at Coney Island USA, 1208 Surf Avenue, ground floor.
The 1950's Cyclops from Spook-A-Rama at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park is on exhibit at the Coney Island History Project through September 7, when the sculpture will be shipped to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum in Hartford. Photo © Coney Island History Project
Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and the Coney Island History Project cordially invite you to a Bon Voyage Party for the Spook-A-Rama Cyclops on Sunday, September 7, from 12pm-6pm. The 1950s folk art icon is leaving Coney Island for the first time in his life to be part of Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, a traveling exhibit organized by Robin Jaffee Frank, chief curator and Krieble Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, which opens in January. Our beloved "Cy" will tour museums across the country through 2016 in the company of artwork by some of America's most distinguished artists.
"The sculpture is unique, one-of-a-kind, a throwback to the hand-made craftsmanship and creativity that made Coney the center of the amusement universe," said Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson, who has been a consultant for the exhibit since 2010 and wrote an essay for the forthcoming catalogue.
Your last chance to take a free souvenir photo with the Cyclops at the Coney Island History Project, where "Cy" has posed with thousands of visitors over the past two years, will be the Bon Voyage Party on September 7 since the sculpture will be shipped later that week. The History Project will be open for this special event. The Cyclops is also on view during the History Project's regular season --Saturdays, Sundays and holidays through Labor Day, September 1, from 12 pm-6pm. Admission is free of charge.
Spook-A-Rama, the classic dark ride at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. Photo courtesy of Deno's Wonder Wheel Park
Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, home to Spook-A-Rama, Coney Island's oldest operating dark ride, will serve ghoulade and eyeball cookies to the first 500 guests on September 7. Spook-A-Rama was carefully refurbished in 2012 after serious damage from flooding during Hurricane Sandy. Along with the restored Pretzel cars and tracks, the ride has exciting new props. Some of the old props were rescued and preserved and will be on public display on September 7 to wish their friend the Cyclops a bon voyage. Spook-A-Rama is one of 21 rides in Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, which is open daily through Labor Day, then weekends and holidays through October 26.
Planning to come to the Cyclops' goodbye party? Enter a contest to win the chance to go on a rare behind-the-scenes tour of Spook-A-Rama on September 7 at 11 am, before the ride opens, led by Wonder Wheel Park's D.J. Vourderis and the Coney Island History Project's Charles Denson. To enter the contest, tell us why you love Spook-A-Rama and want to join the tour. Submissions may be emailed to wonderwheelcat[AT]gmail[DOT]com or posted on Deno's Wonder Wheel Park's Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/DenosWonderWheelPark). Only 10 winners will be selected. Each winner may bring one guest. Winners will be notified in advance of the tour.
DJ Vourderis, whose family owns and operates Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, will lead a behind-the-scenes tour of Spook-A-Rama with the Coney Island History Project's Charles Denson. Coney Island's oldest operating dark ride was built in the 1950s and refurbished after Hurricane SandyABOUT THE CYCLOPS In September 2011, Spook-A-Rama's Cyclops, a Coney Island legend that hadn't been seen in decades, came out of retirement to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Coney Island History Project. Lula Vourderis accepted the plaque on behalf of Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and the Vourderis Family.
In his speech honoring the Cyclops, Charles Denson said: "Last year I was hired as a consultant for an upcoming university art exhibition about Coney Island. While researching artwork for the exhibit we realized that the Cyclops head was an iconic and recurring image in dozens of modern artworks. The curator and I wondered if it still existed and if it could be included in the exhibition. I asked Steve Vourderis if the Cyclops had survived. He had a surprise for me. It was in storage right behind the History Project.
"After being excavated and stabilized it became the centerpiece of our induction ceremony. The Cyclops represents the creativity of Coney Island's artisans and visionaries. In the past, anyone with a vision...(read more)
Enjoy live music, entertainment and history at the 4th Annual History Day at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, home of the landmark 1920 Wonder Wheel, and at the Coney Island History Project. The free event will be held from 1-6pm on Saturday, August 9. The rain date is August 10.
The theme of this year's festivities is the return of the Astroland Rocket, one of the first of the "imaginary" space voyage simulators constructed during the Space Race. Astroland Park's 1962 Rocket was brought back to Coney Island in June 2014 by the History Project and Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, where its new home is next to the Wonder Wheel. The Rocket will be restored as a multimedia exhibit covering the history of flight-themed attractions in Coney Island.
History Day will blast off with a dedication ceremony at the Rocket at 2pm, Visitors are invited to take a peek inside the space-age icon, previously sealed shut for 45 years! Tang & MoonPies will be served to the first 500 guests. DJ George Marchelos and The Rockinghams will play retro '60s music and space-themed songs from 11am-6pm.
Premiere screenings of Charles Denson's new film "The Rocket Has Landed" will be held at the Coney Island History Project from 1-6pm. The film tells the story of the Astroland Rocket and its journey back to Coney Island after being damaged by Hurricane Sandy while in storage on Staten Island. The rocket was installed as the first space-themed ride at Astroland Park in 1962 before being moved to a rooftop location on the Boardwalk that made it a landmark for millions of Coney Island visitors over a period of several decades. Four years after it was donated to the City, the Coney Island History Project spearheaded a successful effort to return the rocket to Coney Island where it is now on display at Wonder Wheel Park.
Bill Sharkey playing his Jaeger & Brommer street organ at Deno's Wonder Wheel Pavilion on the Boardwalk
Returning for an encore performance on History Day are organ grinders from the Automatic Musical Instrument Collectors Association (AMICA) and the Carousel Organ Association of America (COAA) playing both antique and home-built hand-cranked musical organs. From 1pm-6pm, visitors will have the chance to crank some of the organs and experience a thrill from days gone by.
Queens residents Vincent and Maryam Morgan will play their Castlewood 20-note crank organ. The Morgans are president and treasurer of the Lady Liberty Chapter of AMICA, whose members enjoy musical instruments such as player pianos, orchestrions, nickelodeons, band organs and music boxes. The membership is from New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania and southern Connecticut.
Ian Fraser, 13, of Staten Island, is the youngest member of AMICA and COAA. His 1881 Celestina Organette was made by the Mechanical Orguinette Company of New York at their factory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. This type of organ was one of the best selling models of its day and was the equivalent to today's iPod. It allowed the most popular music of the time to be played again and again. It was a first in the history of music.
Ian Fraser, 13, of Staten Island, playing his 1881 Celestina Organette manufactured in Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Bill and Rita Sharkey of Long Island will play a street organ made in Germany by Jaeger & Brommer, whose craftsmanship is based on a 200-year tradition of organ building in Waldkirch. It plays a 20-note paper roll by turning the hand crank located on the side of the organ.
Will and Joanna Schultz are traveling from Pennsylvania with their 26-note Universal John Smith crank organ. Will worked 2-1/2 years to build it entirely from scratch using wood from a scrap pile and designed his own cabinet.
Also from Pennsylvania is Mark Pall, whose interest in building hand-cranked organs grew out of his background as a church organist. He will play a John Smith organ that he built and redesigned himself.
The rally is curated by band organ restorer and magician Bob Yorburg, who is Vice President of COAA. He will perform his interactive show "Professor Phineas Feelgood's World of Magic" at 4pm in Dreamland Plaza adjacent to the Coney Island History Project.
The organ rally and magic show are free to the public and will be held at the Coney Island History Project, Dreamland Pedestrian Plaza on 12th Street and in Deno's...(read more)