The Coney Island History Project recently unveiled our latest collaboration with P.S. 90, the Magnet School for Environmental Studies and Community Wellness. Located on West 12th Street, just down the block from the History Project, the school has a unique and historic location in Coney Island, as it's the only school in the amusement area. Our project focuses on the history of the school site and the surrounding area and explains why it's important to know the past.

Students are amazed to learn that a hotel in the shape of an elephant was once located across the street from the school's site, as were the original Luna Park, an ostrich farm, and a roller coaster that ran the length of the block. The school itself was built in 1964 on the former site of the Coney Island Velodrome, a 10,000-seat oval stadium erected in the 1920s for bicycle racing and which later held boxing matches and midget car races. The Velodrome was demolished in the early 1950s, and the property sold to Fred Trump, Donald Trump's father, who eventually sold it when his plan to build housing on the site was derailed by a federal investigation into his business practices .

The Coney Island Velodrome in the 1930s, looking south. West 12th street is at left.

The Coney Island History Project produced several archival photo banners for the school's entrance, including one that pinpoints the exact location of the P.S. 90 site as it looked in the 1880s when the Elephant Hotel stood watch over Coney Island. The banners are a continuation of our school presentations which began in April with a talk in the auditorium by History Project director Charles Denson about the history of West 12th Street and how it evolved over the years. The next part of the project will be illustrated history plaques, designed to give students at the school a sense of place on one of the most interesting streets in Coney Island.

This community history program is made possible with the support of New York City Councilman Mark Treyger.

P.S. 90 students are inspired by the landmarks surrounding their school.

 

 

posted Nov 16th, 2017 in News and tagged with Coney Island, history, landmarks,...

Coney Island History Project

Walk the Boardwalk with the Coney Island History Project! Our 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 our Oral History Archive, and other primary sources. Coney Island History Project Walking Tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30PM by advance reservation via our eventbrite page. Tickets are $20. The 1-1/2 hour tour is wheelchair accessible.

All Coney Island History Project Walking Tours are weather permitting. If a tour is cancelled due to the weather forecast, ticket orders will be refunded. If you have a question or you would like to schedule a private tour or group visit, please email coneyislandhistory@gmail.com

Kaiser Park

Join us this Saturday, October 14, for International Coastal Cleanup Day along Coney Island Creek in Kaiser Park. 

The free event is from 9AM to 2PM and will include a coastal clean-up and tables representing  local schools and organizations. 

Stop by the Coney Island History Project's table to learn about our free programs and pick up a copy of the Coney Island CreekWalk booklet produced by the History Project for Partnerships for Parks.

posted Oct 13th, 2017 in Events and tagged with Environment, Coney Island Creek, NYSMEA,...

Nathan and Ida Handwerker Way

Photo © Coney Island History Project, September 24, 2016

The People’s Playground is dotted with street signs honoring people whose contributions have made Coney Island history.  Last September, the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenue was officially co-named Nathan and Ida Handwerker Way in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Nathan’s Famous.  The distinctive green and white street sign is among the sights we point out on our Coney Island History Project Walking Tour. Over the weekend, we noticed it was missing. The bracket and bolts that attached it to the pole remains, but the sign appears to have been stolen.

Nathan and Ida Handwerker Way

Photo © Coney Island History Project,  September 15, 2017

Also missing is the sign for Milton Berger Place on Surf Avenue between West 8th and West 10th Streets. Berger was a press agent for Steeplechase Park, the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce and Astroland, where his former office window overlooked one of  the signs. A second sign was across the street in front of the Cyclone Roller Coaster. The corner was also co-named Dewey Albert Place for the founder of Astroland and in honor of the 70th anniversary of the Cyclone.

Milton Berger Place

Photo © Coney Island History Project, November 16, 2014

According to the Archives of the Mayor’s Press Office in 1997, when Berger's street was co-named: “His efforts to keep the Coney Island area economically viable led to a variety of promotions and events, including producing fireworks displays, promoting marathon roller-coaster rides, offering parties for handicapped youngsters and helping to secure the landmark designation of the Cyclone Roller Coaster.”

Surf Avenue and West 10th Street

Photo © Coney Island History Project,  September 15, 2017

The Coney Island History Project has reported the missing signs to the Department of Transportation, which replied that it takes 14 days to respond to this type of complaint.

Among the honorary street signs you can see on the Coney Island History Project Walking Tour are Denos D. Vourderis Place at West 12th St, named for the founder of Denos Wonder Wheel Park; Ruby Jacobs Walk on the Boardwalk, named for the founder of Ruby’s Bar & Grill; and Gargiulo’s Way on West 15th Street, named to mark the 100th anniversary of Gargiulo’s Restaurant.  According to New York City Council’s street co-naming legislation, proposed honorees must be either individuals who are deceased or New Yorkers of significant importance to New York City.

Milton Berger Place

Photo © Coney Island History Project, November 16, 2014

posted Sep 18th, 2017 in History and tagged with Nathan Handwerker, Ida Handwerker, Milton Berger,...

Coney Island History Project

The Coney Island History Project is seeking part-time bilingual interviewers to conduct audio interviews for our oral history project in the Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods of Coney Island, Bensonhurst and Gravesend.

Interviewers must have professional training and experience in oral history, radio reporting or podcasting. They will conduct, record and edit interviews in English or another language for which we may require interviewers. Additional work may include transcribing and translating interviews. Interviews are recorded with people who have stories to share about Coney Island, both residents and visitors as well as people who work here. We are also recording interviews, both in English and other languages, with immigrants who live or work in Southern Brooklyn. Interviewers are paid by the hour for their work. This project is ongoing. Selected interviews are posted online in our Oral History Archive.

Desired skills:

- Fully bilingual in English and at least one other language such as Chinese (Cantonese or Mandarin), Russian, Bengali, Urdu, Haitian Creole, Arabic, or another language for which we may require interviewers

-Training and experience in oral history, radio reporting or podcasting

-Provide samples of previous oral history interviews or audio recordings

-Experience with recording equipment and digital editing

-Ability to work independently

-Excellent written and communication skills

HOW TO APPLY

Please send cover letter, resume, links to previous oral history interviews or audio recordings to coneyislandhistory@gmail.com

posted Aug 16th, 2017 in News and tagged with oral history, bilingual, interviewer,...

Coney Island History Project Destination>Brooklyn

We’re excited to announce the debut of the Coney Island History Project's new multilingual brochure representing our organization’s cultural activities in 10 languages - Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, English, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Urdu. The languages selected are among the top ones spoken by ELLS (English Language Learners) in New York City schools. Reflecting the wonderful "Melting Pot" character of Brooklyn, the brochure was made possible with funds from the Destination>Brooklyn award. Promoting borough tourism, the program is funded by the Office of the Borough President Eric L. Adams and NYC & Co. Foundation, and administered by the Brooklyn Arts Council.

The idea for a multilingual brochure grew out of the History Project’s location in the heart of Coney Island. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers of every ethnicity as well as visitors from across the country and around the world walk by our free exhibit center on their way to the beach and boardwalk. Although we have signs that say “FREE,” it may not be clear to non-English speaking guests what kind of attraction we have and that there is no charge for admission. On many occasions, we’ve had very young children trying to interpret what we are saying for their parents or grandparents, with varying degrees of success.

"Our Exhibit Center is located at one of the most diverse crossroads in the entire city," says Coney Island History Project Executive Director Charles Denson. "We welcome visitors and immigrants from all over the world and make them feel at home by inviting them in and answering questions about Coney Island's history and future. Coney Island is truly the city's melting pot, where people from all walks of life can get together and enjoy fun and a day at the beach."

The new brochure has the word "WELCOME!" on the front as well as the following text in English and the nine selected languages:

“The Coney Island History Project is a not-for-profit organization that documents Coney Island’s legendary past and encourages appreciation of the neighborhood of today. Our exhibition center is located on West 12th Street at the entrance to the Wonder Wheel, just off the Boardwalk. View historic artifacts, photographs, maps and films on weekends and holidays from late May through the summer. Admission is free of charge. Share and preserve your memories of living, working or playing in Southern Brooklyn by recording an interview for our Oral History Archive. Visit http://www.coneyislandhistory.org to listen to interviews recorded in English and other languages and to learn more about our programs.”

The Coney Island History Project’s website has a Google translate feature so that visitors may view a translated version of our site in more than 100 languages. In addition, our online Oral History Archive has audio interviews recorded in English, Chinese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish. We continue to expand the multilingual character of our archive by seeking bilingual interviewers to conduct oral history interviews with immigrants who live or work in Southern Brooklyn.

Distribution of the Coney Island History Project’s multilingual brochure to libraries, community organizations and businesses is in progress and it is now available at the following locations:

Coney Island

Boardwalk: Brooklyn Beach Shop

Mermaid Avenue: Brooklyn Community Services, Coney Island Library, J&R Pharmacy, Mermaid Prime Meat, Wilensky's Hardware

Surf Avenue: Alliance for Coney Island, Coney Island Visitors Center in Stillwell Terminal

West 12th Street: Coney Island History Project, Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park

West 15th Street: New York State Senator Diane Savino, 2872 W 15th St

West 37th Street: Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island, Coney Island Seaside Innovative Senior Center, 3001 W 37th St.

Brooklyn

Bay Ridge: Arab American Association of New York, 7111 5th Ave.

Bensonhurst: New York City Council Member Mark Treyger, 2015 Stillwell Ave.

Brighton Beach: Brighton Beach Library, 16 Brighton 1st Rd.

Downtown: Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon St.

DUMBO: Asian American Arts Alliance, 20 Jay St.; Brooklyn Arts Council, 20 Jay St.

Gowanus: Fifth Avenue Committee, 621 Degraw St.

Gravesend: Ulmer Park Library, 2602 Bath Ave.; United Chinese Association of Brooklyn, 78 Quentin Rd.

Manhattan

International Center of Catholic Charities Community Services, 80 Maiden Lane

NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, 31 Chambers St.

Porto Rico Importing Co. Coffee Store, 201 Bleecker St.

If you would like copies of the Coney Island History Project’s multilingual brochure at your business or organization or to make an appointment to record an oral history interview, please email events@coneyislandhistory.org.

 

posted Aug 16th, 2017 in News and tagged with Multilingual, Awards, Brooklyn Tourism,...

Celebrate Historic Coney Island!

7th ANNUAL HISTORY DAY at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and The Coney Island History Project

FREE EVENTS ALL DAY! 12:00PM – 5:00PM. Enjoy Music, Entertainment, Art & History!

Saturday, August 5th

Coney Island History Day

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, 3059 West 12th St (Denos D. Vourderis Place)

-Dress in 1920’s garb for a FREE ride on the landmark 1920 Wonder Wheel! From 12-5PM.

-The Coney Island History Project has designed History Plaques for 17 classic rides and attractions in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. Visitors may pick up a free copy of the brochure “History Tour of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park” and sign up for a Self-Guided Walking Tour of the numbered history plaques at each site. Brochures will be available on History Day at Deno’s Wonder Wheel, the “Say Boo” Photo Booth across from Spook-A-Rama and the “Say Cheese” Photo Booth next to the Tilt-A-Whirl from 12PM and at the Coney Island History Project from 1PM.

Deno's Carousel

-Two Guided Walking Tours of the history plaques at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park will be led by the Coney Island History Project.  Tours are at 12PM and 3PM and are free but space is limited. Register for the tours on Coney Island History Project’s Eventbrite page.

 -Walk inside the 1960s Astroland Rocket and see a movie! The Rocket returned to Coney Island in 2014 and found a new home beside the Wonder Wheel. From 12-5PM.

History Day

Dreamland Plaza, West 12th Street adjacent to Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

-Opening Ceremony on the Dreamland Plaza Stage followed by Free Entertainment. From 2-5PM

-Singer/songwriter Jen Houston writes quirky melodic alt-country tunes with a whimsical retro sound. Her Coney Island song “No One Here But Us Bones," which she performed inside Spook-A-Rama for a music video, won first prize at the 2015 Coney Island Film Festival

-DJ Dan Kingman will take you on a nostalgia trip with music from the 1920s through the 1980s and lead singalongs.

-Special Surprise Guests!

- A display of Coney Island History Project banners and kiosks emblazoned with Coney Hall of Fame honorees including George C. Tilyou, founder of Steeplechase Park; Dr. Martin Couney, who saved the lives of thousands of premature infants at his Coney Island baby incubator exhibit; Marcus C. Illions, developer of the Coney Island style of carousel carving; and Lady Deborah Moody, who in 1645 founded the town of Gravesend, which included Coney Island, becoming the first woman to found a colony in the new world.

Spookarama Cyclops

West 12th Street Entrance to Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

-Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park is currently home to art and signage by Dan Casola (Spook-A-Rama), Greg Lamarche (Coney Island lettering between Kiddie Park and Wheel), The Wizard (Carousel, Sky Fighter, Ticketbooths), Tommy Holiday (Signage) and the late Barbara Listenik (Pony Carts, Thunderbolt). Meet Brooklyn  artists --sign painter Tommy Holiday, artist and muralist Danielle Mastrion and 9-year-old Lola the Illustrator -- at their newly painted walls featuring the Wonder Wheel, Spook-A-Rama Cyclops, and the Skull from Stop the Zombies! They will be joined by legendary artist and Sea Gate resident Sam Moses, who did the elaborate lettering on Danielle and Tommy's mural. Sam has been painting since the 1970s and did great signs like the frozen letters on Denny’s Ice Cream Shop. From 1PM-4PM.

-Enjoy a Children’s Playground in the People’s Playground! Free Balloons, Games, Bubble Machine, Storytime and Stilt Walker. From 1PM-4PM.

Childs medallion at Coney Island History Project

Coney Island History Project, West 12th St next to the entrance to Deno’s Wonder Wheel

- FREE Admission! View historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and film, and the special exhibit “Neptune Revisited: Terra Cotta Relics from the Childs Building, Last of Coney Island's Boardwalk Palaces" at the Coney Island History Project exhibition center. A selection of original polychrome pieces from the Childs Restaurant Building is on display along with archival photographs, ephemera, and an illustrated timeline of the history of the building and its restoration. From 12-7PM.

-Take free souvenir photos with an original Steeplechase horse, from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park its name, and the iconic Cyclops head from Deno's Wonder Wheel Park's Spook-A-Rama, Coney Island's oldest dark ride. See Coney Island’s oldest surviving artifact, the 1823 Toll House sign dates back to the days when the toll for a horse and rider to “the Island” was 5 cents! From 1-7PM.

For updates on History Day and other Coney news, follow the Coney Island History Project on Facebook, Instagram and twitter. Follow Deno's Wonder Wheel Park on Facebook, Instagram and twitter.

Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and the Coney Island History Project

3059 West 12th Street, Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY 11224

D, F, N or Q train to Stillwell Terminal

Phone: 347-702-8553 (Coney Island History Project)

Phone: 718-372-2592 (Deno's Wonder Wheel Park)

http://www.coneyislandhistory.org

http://www.denoswonderwheel.com

Pet Photo Day at the Coney Island History Project

Chico and ZZ Riding the Steeplechase Horse at the Coney Island History Project on Pet Day.

On Saturday, June 10, take a FREE SOUVENIR PHOTO of your SMALL PET "riding" the Coney Island History Project's Steeplechase Horse or antique Kiddie Whip Car during exhibit center hours. Free admission, 1-7pm.

We're joining in the fun as Deno's Wonder Wheel Park celebrates its 7th Annual Pet Day. Dogs, guinea pigs, snakes, turtles and other pets are invited to ride Deno's Wonder Wheel from 12-7 for free when accompanied by their human and enter a Pet Costume Contest at 2pm!

Mackie rides the Whip Car at Coney Island History Project

Mackie Rides the Whip Car at the Coney Island History Project on Pet Day

posted Jun 7th, 2017 in News and tagged with Coney Island History Project, Pet Photo Day, Pet Day,...

Terra Cotta Relics from the Childs Building

The Coney Island History Project's special exhibition for the 2017 season, opening on Memorial Day Weekend, is "Neptune Revisited: Terra Cotta Relics from the Childs Building, Last of Coney Island's Boardwalk Palaces." A selection of original polychrome pieces from the Childs Restaurant Building will be on display along with archival photographs, ephemera, and an illustrated timeline of the history of the building and its restoration.

Childs Restaurant Building on the Coney Island Boardwalk has a remarkable history that spans nearly a century. Completed in 1924, and originally the flagship location for the Childs Restaurant chain, the building has served as a candy factory, a book warehouse, and a roller rink. The fireproof building also acted as a firebreak during the disastrous fire of 1932, stopping the flames and saving the amusement area from destruction. Childs survived years of isolation at the westernmost fringe of Coney Island's amusement zone as everything else around it closed down and was demolished.

The landmark building's colorful, nautical-themed terra-cotta façade, marble columns, and multi-arched entranceway, have charmed and mystified Boardwalk visitors for nearly a century. One of the most striking images on the building is a medallion of King Neptune with gold crown and trident, rising from the sea, dripping with seaweed, and gazing out as if serving as guardian of the Boardwalk. The Childs Building, now connected to the adjacent Ford Amphitheater, recently underwent a magnificent, multi-million dollar restoration and has once again reopened as a restaurant. Last May, prior to the opening of the Amphitheater, Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson made a short film about the building's history and future, which may be viewed here.

The building's restoration included replication and replacement of the beautiful but seriously damaged terra-cotta decorations that covered the facade. Hundreds of replications were lovingly hand-painted and hand finished by the Boston Valley Terra-Cotta Company in Buffalo, New York. Visitors to the Coney Island History Project can now get an up-close view of many of the original polychrome terra-cotta pieces that were removed, including the King Neptune medallion and a medallion showing an image of the Boardwalk and building that was hidden away for decades on an interior wall of the restaurant.

Childs Building Medallion at Coney Island History Project

Original Terra cotta medallion showing an image of the Childs Building from an interior wall of the restaurant is on view in the Coney Island History Project exhibit. The medallion is 48 inches in diameter. Photo by Charles Denson

 The Coney Island History Project exhibition center is open free of charge on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. We're located on West 12th Street at the entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, just a few steps off the Boardwalk.

View historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films of Coney Island's colorful past. Visitors are invited to take free souvenir photos with the iconic Spook-A-Rama Cyclops and Coney Island's only original Steeplechase horse, from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park its name. Among the rare treasures on display is Coney Island's oldest surviving artifact from the dawn of the "World's Playground." The 1823 Toll House sign dates back to the days when the toll for a horse and rider to "the Island" was 5 cents!

posted May 18th, 2017 in Events and tagged with Childs Building, Childs Restaurant, Terra Cotta,...

The Spook-A-Rama Cyclops at the Coney Island History Project

When the Spook-A-Rama Cyclops left Coney Island in 2014 for a national tour of art museums as part of the NEH-funded Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art exhibit "Coney Island Visions of an American Dreamland," the identity of the artist who created this fabulous piece of folk art remained unknown. Until now. 

The Cyclops - or "Cy" as we affectionately call him - has returned home to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and beginning Memorial Day Weekend will be on display at the Coney Island History Project along with documentation of the artist who created the iconic sculpture and its mesmerizing moving eye nearly 60 years ago. 

Thanks to the reminiscences of a former neighbor, who recalled the artist building the figure in his yard, the Coney Island History Project has learned that he was Dan Casola (1902-1990), a Coney Islander known to us by reputation as a highly regarded painter of sideshow banners. Less well known is that he made mechanized props and painted signs for a number of Coney Island attractions including the 1950's dark ride Spook-A-Rama, created wax figures for Lillie Santangelo's World in Wax Musee, and painted the mural over the bar at Club Atlantis on the Boardwalk. Born in Italy, Dan Casola's family emigrated to New York when he was a child. He lived and worked in Coney Island until the late 1970s when he retired to Arizona. 

Interviews with Dan Casola's daughter Patricia Casola and son Wesley Casola recorded by Charles Denson for the Coney Island History Project's Oral History Archive provide details of their father's life as a freelance artist. Patricia Casola describes him as a tinkerer and a self-taught man who told her, "I learned by doing this," when she asked where he got his skill and inspiration. Says Wesley Casola, who recalls his father creating the Cyclops from plywood, chicken wire and sheets of celastic,"it'd be nice for him to get some credit for it."

The Spook-A-Rama Cyclops at the Coney Island History Project

Thousands of visitors have taken souvenir photos, videos and selfies with the Spook-A-Rama Cyclops at the Coney Island History Project. The Cyclops eye moves back and forth and glows red at night. Photo: Coney Island History Project

The artist had a penchant for maintaining multiple studios, including two in the family's home on Stillwell Avenue and a secret studio behind Spook-A-Rama, where they brought him dinner. Boxes full of glass eyeballs for the taking and free rides were some of the perks of being Danny's kids. The artist's appropriation of household items such as his wife's black brassiere and his children's wind-up toys for his spooky creations was legend. The interviews are available for online listening on the Coney Island History Project's website.

The circa 1955 Spook-A-Rama, located in Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, is Coney Island's oldest operating dark ride. In September 2011, the Cyclops, a Coney Island legend that had originally sat atop the roof of Spook-A-Rama but had not been seen for decades, came out of retirement to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Coney Island History Project. After being stabilized it became the centerpiece of our induction ceremony and a popular attraction at the History Project exhibition center from 2012 through 2014. 

As part of the traveling exhibit "Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland," the Cyclops traveled for the past two years in the company of artwork by some of America's most distinguished artists to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, San Diego Art Museum, Brooklyn Museum and San Antonio Museum of Art. 

The Spook-A-Rama Cyclops at Brooklyn Museum

The Spook-A-Rama Cyclops on view in "Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland" at the Brooklyn Museum in 2016 with Charles Denson's photo of Cyclops atop Spook-A-Rama as a backdrop and Arnold Mesches' painting "Anomie 2001: Coney" featuring the Cyclops. Photo: Brooklyn Museum 

"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. 

The Spook-A-Rama Cyclops will be on view at the Coney Island History Project exhibition center located on West 12th Street at the entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, just a few steps off the Boardwalk. The History Project is open Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day from 1-7pm. Admission is free of charge. 

posted May 15th, 2017 in History and tagged with Spook-A-Rama, Cyclops, Artist Unknown,...