RIP Stewart Stewie Glass

RIP Stewart "Stewie" Glass, Coney Island game operator for the past 50+ years. He passed away after suffering a heart attack. For the past two seasons, Stewie ran a balloon game on the Bowery. The basketball game in Charles Denson's 2007 portrait was in the Grashorn Building on Surf. A graveside service will be held at Mount Lebanon Cemetery, Iselin, New Jersey, on Thursday at 1:00pm.

(Posted on Oct 30, 2014)
Coney Island Creek Talk Oct 29

On October 29, 2014, the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Charles Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project, will present "Coney Island Creek After Sandy: Planning for the Future." The talk and film screening will be at the Coney Island Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library at 6pm and is free and open to the public. The Library is located at 1901 Mermaid Avenue at the corner of West 19th Street.

"Coney Island suffered major flooding during Hurricane Sandy, prompting a city proposal to transform Coney Island Creek by building a dam and flood gates at the creek's mouth to prevent damage from future storm surges," writes Charles Denson. "A feasibility study that will soon get underway also calls for a long-needed restoration of the creek's wetlands. The main problem with the proposed dam is that it would turn Coney Island Creek into a toxic cesspool fed by storm sewers and would do little to prevent flooding. The tidal barrier idea is an expedient fix conceived at a time of crisis but is not the best long-term solution."

Conceptual CIC Culvert NYCEDC

Conceptual Coney Island Creek Culvert. Credit: NYCEDC

"Coney Island's first attraction wasn't the beach or amusements: it was the thousand-acre tidal estuary known as Coney Island Creek. The first hotels and resorts in the 1820s grew up around this pristine tidal creek known for its hunting and fishing. The next century would see the wetlands filled and the creek fouled by industrial waste, garbage dumps, and sewage. The wetlands that protected the area from flooding were filled in and developed."

"When I began documenting Coney Island Creek in the 1960s, the waterway was at its lowest point, polluted and neglected and used as a dumping ground. The creek has improved greatly since then, the result of the Clean Water Act of 1972 and a new awareness of the creek's potential. Three beautiful parks now surround the wide entrance to the creek, and a major clean-up of the creek's narrow headwaters in 2006 removed mountains of toxic industrial sludge. It would be a shame to see these improvements reversed."

Creek Sunset

Creek Sunset. Photo by Charles Denson, August 2007

"My documentary will tell the history of Coney Island Creek and demonstrate its ecological, educational, and recreational importance to the surrounding community. The public needs to learn what's at stake and to have an informed voice in the future of this resource and an awareness of the successes and failures of past projects that have led to the city's current call for a tidal barrier. Passive, natural protections, such as oyster beds and sand dunes, will provide more reliable protection than dams and culverts."

"Two years ago I had a photo exhibit about Coney Island Creek at the Coney Island Library. It showed 40 years of my documentation. On the night of October 29, the library was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy and, along with it, my photos and displays. It's a wonderful feeling to be back at the restored library and to continue my story."

Charles Denson

Charles Denson at his Coney Island Library exhibit "The Secrets of Coney Island Creek," which was swept away when the library was destroyed by Sandy

Charles Denson, a Coney Island native, has been documenting the Creek for over 40 years and is working on a book and film about the waterway. He has given numerous lectures and presentations concerning the Creek at venues that include the New York Aquarium, The Coney Island Library, Kingsborough College, Brooklyn College, and at various locations in the Coney Island community. In 2013 Denson received the Herman Melville Award from the New York State Marine Education Association for his contributions to marine education through his work. (read more)

(Posted on Oct 15, 2014)
NCA BRass Ring Award

At the National Carousel Association's 2014 convention and technical conference in New York City, the Coney Island History Project was honored with their Brass Ring Award for Service. The award was presented "for outstanding efforts in Archiving, Recording and Preserving the History of the Pioneers and Contemporaries of the Amusement Industry in Coney Island, New York."

"This award is a great honor," wrote Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson in a thank-you letter to National Carousel Association president Bette Largent. "When we founded the History Project a decade ago, Carol Albert and I set out to preserve in living memory the achievements and contributions of the many unsung heroes of Coney Island and the NCA award is an encouraging validation of our mission."

The Coney Island History Project's Hall of Fame has honored such Coney Island amusement industry icons as Steeplechase Park founder George C. Tilyou, carousel carver Marcus C. Illions, and ride inventor and amusement manufacturer William F. Mangels. Among the voices in our Oral History Archive are the late Jimmy McCullough, whose family operated numerous small amusement parks and carousels in Coney Island, including the B&B Carousell; band organ expert Max Nowicki; and Fabricon Carousel Factory founder Marvin Sylvor.

(Posted on Oct 14, 2014)
Coney Island Creek

SAVE THE DATE October 29, 2014, the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, for "Coney Island Creek After Sandy: Planning for the Future." Will the Creek be a community asset or a liability? A talk and film presentation by Charles Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project, will be held at the Coney Island Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library at 6pm. The Wednesday evening event is free and open to the public. The Coney Island Library is located at 1901 Mermaid Avenue at the corner of West 19th Street.

Charles Denson, a Coney Island native, has been documenting the Creek for over 40 years and is working on a book and film about the waterway. He has given numerous lectures and presentations concerning the Creek at venues that include the New York Aquarium, The Coney Island Library, Kingsborough College, Brooklyn College, and at various locations in the Coney Island community. In 2013 Denson received the Herman Melville Award from the New York State Marine Education Association for his contributions to marine education through his work.

The Coney Island History Project would also like to introduce our new sister Twitter account @ConeyCreek. Please follow it in addition to @ConeyHistory for history, news and event info for Coney Island Creek.

(Posted on Oct 06, 2014)

Coney Island History Project Walking Tour led by Amanda Deutch

The Coney Island History Project's exhibit center season is from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day, but we continue to offer walking tours and group visits to our exhibit center year-round. Our unique tours are based on History Project Director Charles Denson's award-winning book "Coney Island: Lost and Found," the interviews from CIHP's Oral History Archive, and other primary sources. Through the end of October, Coney Island History Project Walking Tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 pm by advance reservation only. Beginning in November tours start an hour earlier, at 1pm, and are also by advance reservation. Tickets are $20. The 1-1/2 hour tour is wheelchair accessible.

All tours are weather permitting. If a tour is cancelled due to the weather forecast, ticket orders will be refunded. Advance purchase of tickets via our online reservation site is required for the fall and winter series. If you have a question or you would like to schedule a private tour or group visit, please email events@coneyislandhistory.org

Coney Island History Project Group Visit

The History Project's Coneyologist Club hosts visits by children from the community like this group from Coney Island Houses

(Posted on Sep 26, 2014)
William F Mangels

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

Group from Green-Wood visit Coney Island History Project

(Posted on Sep 21, 2014)