The Coney Island History Project has answered the City's RFP and submitted a proposal to bring the Astroland Rocket back to
Coney Island. If our proposal is accepted we will assume ownership of the Rocket and plan to move it to a location near our exhibit center in Deno's Wonder Wheel Park provided by the park's owners, Steve and Dennis Vourderis. History Project co-founder and Astroland owner Carol Albert has offered to pay the cost of moving the Rocket back to Coney Island.
If the rocket comes back to the location we have chosen, the restoration of the ride would be overseen by Steve Vourderis and it would become an educational exhibit designed by History Project director Charles Denson. Stacy and Steve Vourderis, who spearheaded the park's annual History Day, hope to make the Rocket the centerpiece of next year's celebration.
When Astroland was closing, the Albert family had long planned to preserve the Astroland Rocket by donating it to the Coney Island History Project, the not-for-profit organization they founded in 2004. CIHP director Charles Denson is the author of Coney Island and Astroland, which uses primary sources to tell the history of the park, and the curator of the CIHP exhibit "The Astroland Archives Photography Exhibit: Back to the Future.” Mr. Denson would have liked to keep the Rocket as an exhibit, but at the time the History Project’s exhibition center was under the Cyclone roller coaster and did not have parking space for a rocket.
The Rocket was the first ride at Astroland and it defined the park’s space age theme when it opened in 1962. As one of the first of the “imaginary” space voyage simulators constructed during the Space Race, The attraction showed simulator films of “rocket rides” while the chassis “rocked” its viewers to outer space. The Ride, which has 26 seats, lasted about three minutes, the length of the film. Originally built as the “Star Flyer,” the Astroland Rocket later sat atop the boardwalk restaurant Gregory and Paul’s.
In 1928, when John F. Kennedy was a young boy living with his family in the Bronx (the Riverdale section, not the South Bronx), his father, Joe, was forming RKO studios and producing a movie called "Coney Island. " The flick starred silent picture queen Lois Wilson and was directed by Ralph Ince.
The motion picture industry had recently moved from Brooklyn (Vitagraph Studios in Midwood) to Hollywood and most of the Coney scenes were shot in Los Angeles. Promotion for the film described it as the story of " a young woman swept up in the romantic magic of America's favorite fun destination. . . "
Joseph P. Kennedy sold his movie studios in the early 1930s, went into the liquor business, and then into politics as President Roosevelt's ambassador to Great Britain. The rest is history.
The Coney Island History Project congratulates History teacher Mark Treyger on his election as Coney Island's new councilman. Councilman-elect Treyger begins his term sporting an impressive public service record. His campaign focused on education, the environment, tenants' rights, and youth employment, all issues vitally important to Coney Island. But perhaps his most important attribute is an understanding of history. Mr. Treyger is a fan of the book Coney Island: Lost and Found and he will now have a hand in shaping Coney's place in history and the future of New York.
Can you identify these still existing 19th-century Coney Island buildings?
One of the new features on our soon-to-be-released revamped website will identify historic Coney Island buildings, tell their histories, and show the structure's evolution by using before and after photos.
Happy Halloween from Mr. Cyclops and the Coney Island History Project! During the off-season, Coney Island History Project Walking Tours include a private visit to our exhibit center. This Spook-A-Rama veteran used to be on the roof of the iconic 1950s dark ride, which was restored after Sandy and is still in operation. “We didn’t just want to be back,” said Dennis Vourderis, who owns and operates Deno's Wonder Wheel Park with his brother, Steve, in an article in the Wall St Journal. “We wanted to be better. We wanted to stay special.” The Cyclops is on loan from the Vourderis family of Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park.
The New York State Marine Education Association presented the Herman Melville Literary Award to Charles Denson at their annual conference. "NYSMEA is pleased to recognize Charles Denson's contributions to marine education through the Coney Island History Project," said Dr. Meghan Marrero, President of NYSMEA. "His books, audio walking tours, and other works are important and timely. The NYSMEA Herman Melville Literary Award is a well-deserved honor."
The award is presented to a member or non-member who has made a major contribution to the world of maritime literature and/or art. Mr. Denson has documented the Coney Island Creek for over 40 years and is working on a book and film about the waterway. In the photo above, he is at the award ceremony with Dr. Merryl Kafka, NYSMEA board member and co-founder of the Rachel Carson HS of Coastal Studies in Coney Island.
"Coney Island as a resort began not on the ocean but on the banks of the Creek nearly two hundred years ago," says Denson. "The first hotel, restaurant and amusement park opened on the banks of Coney Island creek, and the history goes back nearly 400 years. The creek has great potential." Last year, Charles Denson and the Coney Island History Project received a grant from the Partnership for Parks to create CreekWalk, a self-guided walking tour brochure and a series of informational plaques installed on the creek side of Kaiser Park.