Coney Island Blog - Events

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,...

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

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,...

Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive

Ron Rossi, whose interview is part of the NEH on the Road's traveling Coney Island exhibit, being interviewed by Natalie Milbrodt for the Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive in 2010

We're proud to announce that selections from the Coney Island History Project's Oral History Archive will be part of the NEH on the Road exhibit "Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland" touring the U.S. from April 2017 through March 2022.

The NEH-funded exhibit, which first opened at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and traveled to the Brooklyn Museum and San Diego Museum of Art, was adapted from its original format to make it available to smaller venues in communities large and small across the country. This new traveling exhibition from NEH on the Road will explore America's playground as a place and as an idea, examining its persistent presence in the American imagination.

Among the Coney Island History Project interviews featured in the exhibit are Beth Allen, who was an incubator baby in Dr. Martin Couney's sideshow in Luna Park; Joseph Albanese, who recalls a time when police didn't allow bathing suits on the boardwalk even though bathing suits were very modest; and Ron Rossi and Ronald Ruiz, who talk about their experiences riding the Parachute Jump, the Cyclone and Steeplechase Horse Race at Steeplechase Park. Clips from these interviews and several others will be running on a loop at one of the listening stations in the exhibition.

Upcoming venues include the Brazos Valley Museum, Brazos, TX (April 6-May 25, 2017); Ypsilanti Public Library, Ypsilanti, MI (June 16-August 11, 2017) and the Sioux City Public Museum, Sioux City, IA (November 10, 2017-January 7, 2018). Pending destinations include Hagerstown, MD; Green Bay, WI; Reading, PA; Temple, TX; Park City, UT; Hastings, NE; Buford, GA; West Branch, IA; Baton Rouge, LA; Greenville, SC; and Shawnee, KS.

NEH on the Road is a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities designed to create wider national access to the ideas, themes, and stories explored in major grant-funded NEH exhibitions. The program is funded by the NEH and run by Mid-America Arts Alliance, a non-profit regional arts organization located in Kansas City. If you would like to bring the Coney Island exhibit to a venue near you, check the NEH on the Road website for details.

 

Coney Island History Project

You're invited to visit the Coney Island History Project's exhibition center on Coney's traditional Opening Day, Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017. View historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films of Coney Island's colorful past and take a free souvenir photo with 'Skully' or our original Steeplechase horse at our exhibition center. We'll be open 1pm-6pm. Admission is free of charge.

2017 marks the 13th anniversary of the Coney Island History Project! Since the History Project's inception in 2004 with a portable recording booth on the Boardwalk, followed by the opening of the Coney Island Hall of Fame in 2005 and the inaugural season of our exhibition center under the Cyclone in 2007 and moving to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park in 2011, we have proudly offered "Free Admission for One and All!" at our exhibits and special events. 

The Opening Day festivities start at 11:00AM on the Boardwalk with the 32nd Annual Blessing of the Rides at Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park. The late Pastor Debbe Santiago of Coney Island's Salt and Sea Mission originated the event with Denos D. Vourderis in 1985, who invited 300 children from the Mission to enjoy free rides and Easter baskets, a tradition that continues today. 

A ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by park owners Dennis and Steve Vourderis will be followed by free rides on the Wonder Wheel for the first 97 guests in celebration of the Wheel's 97th anniversary. At Luna Park, the first 100 on line at the Cyclone roller coaster will ride the roller coaster for free and egg cream samples will be given out.  Coney Island's 1920 Wonder Wheel and the 1927 Cyclone are official New York City landmarks.

At the Coney Island History Project, visitors may take free souvenir photos with the only original Steeplechase horse from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park (1897-1964) its name that remains in Coney Island and "Skully," a figure from Coney's classic Spookhouse and Spook-A-Rama dark rides. Among the treasures on display at the Coney Island History Project's exhibit center is Coney's oldest surviving artifact. The 1823 wooden Toll House Sign dates back to the days when the toll for a horse and rider to "the Island" was 5 cents!

Located on West 12th Street at the entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel, just a few steps off the Boardwalk, the Coney Island History Project is open free of charge on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day from 1:00-7:00PM. We will also be open on Easter Sunday, April 16, from 1:00-6:00PM. The Coney Island History Project is open year round for private group visits and our weekend walking tours as well as by appointment to record interviews with people who have memories of Coney Island for our Oral History Archive.

Coney Island History Project

The final section of the Coney Island CreekWalk has been completed and installed at Calvert Vaux Park. Conceived and produced by Charles Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project, this self-guided tour of Coney Island Creek was funded by a Capacity Fund Grant from Partnerships for Parks, a joint program of NYC Parks and City Parks Foundation.

The CreekWalk project, which began in 2012, includes informational aluminum signs and full-color brochures that describe the history, wildlife, and ecology of the creek at Kaiser Park and Calvert Vaux Park. "I've been researching and documenting Coney Island Creek since the 1960s," Denson said, "and we wanted to share this information with park visitors who may not be familiar with the fascinating history of these parks and the sights to be seen along the two trails where our signs have been placed." 

Among the points of interest are sand dunes, horseshoe crabs, wetlands, shipwrecks (the Yellow Submarine), ribbed mussels, fishing, birds, flowers, and the history of the two parks. The last sign on the trail, located at a scenic viewpoint at Calvert Vaux, describes the site of the historic British invasion of 1776 on Gravesend Bay that led to the Battle of Brooklyn. "Sometimes informational park signs use generic images as illustration, Denson said, "but all of the photos used in this tour were taken on the Coney Island Creek estuary. Coney Island Creek is a unique waterway with a compelling history and great ecological importance." The free brochures will be available at the Coney Island History Project during the summer or from Partnerships for Parks at park events.

The tour at Kaiser Park begins at Bayview Avenue and heads east along a paved path that follows the creek. The signs are installed on the guardrail. At Calvert Vaux Park the tour begins at the parking lot at Shore Parkway and heads west along the paved path that starts at the second kayak launch. The signs are installed on light poles along the path.

Special thanks to Martin Maher and Michael Super of NYC Parks; Pamela Pettyjohn of Coney Island Beautification Project; and Ted Enoch of the Catalyst Program of Partnerships for Parks.

Charles Denson at Coney Island Creek

Charles Denson with Coney Island CreekWalk sign at Calvert Vaux Park

posted Dec 12th, 2016 in Events and tagged with Coney Island Creek, Charles Denson, Kaiser Park,...

Astroland Rocket

Celebrate World Space Week this weekend - October 8, 9, and 10 - with a  walk inside Coney Island's famed Astroland Rocket. Located next to the landmark Wonder Wheel in Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, the historic Rocket is open free of charge to visitors during park hours, which are 12:00 PM through 6:00 PM on weekends and holidays through October.

"The Astroland Rocket at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park is a continuing symbol of America's successful space program in the 1960's and it is an inspiration today," says Deno John Vourderis, a third-generation member of the family who owns the park and gave the space-age icon a permanent home in Coney Island. "Visitors to our park are encouraged to ask questions and seek knowledge, The Vourderis family works hard to help ignite inquisitive young minds hoping to develop the geniuses of tomorrow. This is what helps make our world, our country, and our local communities great. Welcome to Coney Island, there's enough magic here for everybody."

One of the first and only surviving simulators constructed for amusement parks during the Space Race, the Rocket debuted in 1962 at Coney Island's space age-themed Astroland Park. Originally billed as the "Star Flyer," the Rocket was also called the “Cape Canaveral Satellite Jet” (TIME), “The Spaceship Auditorium” (Billboard), and the “Cannonball Adderly Rocket” in anticipation of Adderly dedicating the rocket for Astroland’s official opening on July 1, 1962.  The ride was rechristened the “Astroland Moon Rocket” in 1963. The Rocket, which has 26 seats, showed films of space voyages while the chassis “rocked” its viewers to outer space. 

After Astroland closed in 2008, park owners Carol and Jerry Albert donated the Rocket to the City of New York, which promised to make it a centerpiece of the new Coney Island. In 2014, the Coney Island History Project and Deno's Wonder Wheel Park teamed up to assume ownership of the Rocket and bring it home, a story chronicled in Charles Denson's film The Rocket Has Landed.. The 18-minute film tells the history of the Astroland Rocket and its journey back to Coney Island after being damaged by Hurricane Sandy while in storage on Staten Island

Astroland Rocket

"Outer space simulators have played a prominent role in Coney's amusement history,” says Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project and author of Coney Island: Lost and Found. “It began when Thompson and Dundy brought 'A Trip to the Moon' to Steeplechase Park in 1902 and culminated in 1962, at the height of the space race, with Astroland's Moon Rocket. The ride provided visitors with an exciting taste of intergalactic travel."

World Space Week is an international celebration of science and technology, and their contribution to the betterment of the human condition. The United Nations General Assembly declared in 1999 that World Space Week will be held each year from October 4-10. These dates commemorate the October 4, 1957 launch of the first human-made Earth satellite, Sputnik 1, which opened the way for space exploration and the October 10, 1967 signing of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activites of States in the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. 

Astroland Rocket

posted Oct 4th, 2016 in Events and tagged with Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, Astroland Rocket, Astroland,...

6th ANNUAL HISTORY DAY
S̶a̶t̶u̶r̶d̶a̶y̶ ̶A̶u̶g̶u̶s̶t̶ ̶6̶t̶h̶ ̶1̶p̶m̶-̶6̶p̶m̶
Sunday August 7th
At Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park
& The Coney Island History Project

DUE TO SATURDAY'S FORECAST, HISTORY DAY WILL BE HELD ON SUNDAY AUGUST 7. FREE EVENTS ALL DAY!

2:00 PM - 2016 Coney Island Hall of Fame Induction and Dedication Ceremony, Dreamland Plaza Stage, West 12th Street at the Boardwalk
-The honorees are the Coney Island Boardwalk, Deno's Wonder Wheel, Gargiulo's Restaurant and The Wizards of 8th Street. A plaque will be dedicated to the Albert family, founders of the Coney Island History Project and the Coney Island Hall of Fame 

1:00 PM - 6:00 PM: West 12 Street from the entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park to the Boardwalk:
-Display of banners and kiosks celebrating Coney Island history and past Hall of Fame honorees
-David Head will sign copies of his book on African-American inventor Granville T. Woods (1856-1910), who was inducted into the Coney Island Hall of Fame in 2008
-Amanda Deutch, poet and founder of Parachute Literary Arts, will have a Poetry Making Station featuring vintage typewriters. Letterpress posters with Walt Whitman and Muriel Rukeyser's Coney Island poems will be for sale
-Commendatore Aldo Mancusi, founder of the Enrico Caruso Museum of America, will play his hand-cranked Hofbauer street organ from the museum. Crank a tune and receive a certificate commemorating History Day!
-DJ Dan Kingman will play retro tunes and lead singalongs throughout the day
-Keep an eye out for our stiltwalker for free balloons and salt water taffy while supplies last

1:00 PM - 6:00 PM: At Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and the Coney Island History Project:
-Dress in 1920s garb and get one Free Ride on the Wonder Wheel! The Wheel opens at 12:00 PM
-Walk inside the iconic 1960s Astroland Rocket, which returned to Coney Island in 2014 and has a new home beside the Wonder Wheel. Adjacent to the Rocket, see a special display of historic figures and signage from the park's classic 1955 Spook-A-Rama dark ride
-At the Coney Island History Project, share and preserve your Coney Island memories by recording an interview for our Oral History Archive. View historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and film, and the special exhibit "The 50th Anniversary of Fred Trump's Demolition of the Steeplechase Pavilion"
-Take free souvenir photos with old-timey cutouts at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and with the Coney Island History Project's "Skully" from Coney's Spookhouse and an original Steeplechase horse from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park its name

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.wonderwheel.com 
For additional info, email events@coneyislandhistory.org

 

posted Jul 27th, 2016 in Events and tagged with Coney Island, history, festival,...

History Day

Celebrate historic Coney Island at the 6th Annual History Day at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, Coney Island's oldest amusement park, and the Coney Island History Project. The free event will be held from 1-6 PM on S̶a̶t̶u̶r̶d̶a̶y̶ ̶A̶u̶g̶u̶s̶t̶ ̶6̶t̶h̶. Sunday, August 7th.

At 2:00 PM, Charles Denson, historian and director of the Coney Island History Project, will present the 2016 Coney Island Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. The event will take place onstage at Dreamland Plaza, which is on West 12th Street at the Boardwalk as part of the History Day celebration.

Carol Hill Albert and Charles Denson

Carol Hill Albert and Charles Denson at dedication of the Coney Island History Project Memory Booth on the Boardwalk, 2005.

A plaque honoring Carol Hill Albert and the late Jerry Albert, who founded the Coney Island History Project and the Coney Island Hall of Fame, which was originally along West 10th Street, will be dedicated on History Day.  The Alberts, who were owners of Astroland Park and longtime operators of the Cyclone Roller Coaster, founded the History Project in 2004 in memory of Astroland co-founder Dewey Albert. Ms. Albert will represent the Albert family.

The Hall of Fame honors architectural wonders as well as historical figures who were pioneers and visionaries whose creativity and ingenuity helped shape and define Coney Island.

Coney Island History Project Coney Island Hall of Fame

This year’s Hall of Fame honorees in the architecture category are Coney Island’s landmark 1920 Wonder Wheel and the Riegelmann Boardwalk, which opened in 1923, and is currently under consideration for Scenic Landmark designation by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The Vourderis family, who have owned and operated the Wheel for more than three decades, will accept the plaque for the Wheel. Rob Burstein, President of the Coney-Boardwalk Alliance, will represent the Boardwalk.

Also being honored this year is Gargiulo's Restaurant, which opened in 1907, making it the oldest restaurant in Coney Island. The four Russo brothers, Nino, Ralph, Michael and Victor, bought the business from the Gargiulo family in 1965 and continued the fine Neapolitan tradition that made the establishment the classiest Coney Island destination for special events and fine meals. Gargiulo's is the last vestige of the many fine restaurants that were once sprinkled along the four blocks of Coney's "Little Italy" section. The Russo family will be represented by Nino Russo.

William F Mangels Factory Coney Island History Project

Workers at William F. Mangels shop on West 8th Street in Coney Island. The building is now the Department of Motor Vehicles. Photo © Coney Island History Project Collection.

The Coney Island Hall of Fame will also pay tribute to a group of historical figures who were an important and creative part of Coney Island that has completely disappeared. We call them “The Wizards of 8th Street.”

"Few people realize that for nearly a century Coney Island’s West 8th Street, between Surf Avenue and Neptune Avenue, served as the amusement manufacturing capital of the world,” said historian and Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson.

“This small stretch of West 8th Street was the home to the Illions Carousel factory, the Mangels amusement factory, and Pinto Brothers amusement factory as well as the Bonomo candy factory. Supporting roles were played by an assortment of independent tinsmiths, wood carvers, sign painters and banner painters, blacksmiths, electricians, welders, carpenters, machine shops, restaurant supply stores, and a lumberyard. Behind the establishments was a railroad freight yard to deliver raw materials and warehouses to store them. West 8th is where visionaries invented, perfected and manufactured some of the world’s most famous amusements. It was also a training ground for amusement designers who apprenticed there and went on to build their own amusement companies.”

Peluso Machine and Iron Works

Business card for West 8th Street's Peluso Machine and Iron Works, which made replacement parts for rides until 1966. Photo © Coney Island History Project Collection.

Joining the Coney Island Hall of Fame ceremony will be descendants of some of the prominent families who worked or lived on West 8th Street.

The Pinto Brothers, amusement ride manufacturers and one-time owners of the Cyclone Roller Coaster, are represented by the Kathryn Squitieri family.

The Kargman brothers Alex and Morris were talented old-world craftsman who could repair anything in Coney Island. They are represented by grandson Steve Kargman and granddaughter Calli Eve Kargman Bellitti.

Ride inventor and amusement manufacturer William F. Mangels emigrated 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. A trio of rides manufactured by Mangels --the B&B Carousell and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park’s Fire Engine and Pony Cart rides- are still in operation in Coney Island. He is represented by great-granddaughter Lisa Mangels-Schaefer.

Machinist John Rea left Italy and began working at Peluso Machine and Iron Works in 1947. The shop was responsible for creating replacement parts for countless rides in Coney Island. He bought the business, and operated it until 1966. His son, John Rea Jr., who was a Coney Island sign painter as a teenager and is now an advertising professional and adjunct professor at the School of Visual Arts, will represent the Rea family.

Joe Bonsignore

Joe Bonsignore sitting in his go kart car ride on Surf Ave. at West 8th Street. Photo © Coney Island History Project Collection.

Sicilian immigrant Joe Bonsignore came to Coney Island in 1907 as a young man and wound up owning or being a partner in Coney’s largest businesses. He bought the L.A. Thompson Scenic railway and Stauch’s Baths. Joe also brought the Bobsled ride from the 1939-40 World’s Fair and moved it to Coney Island. His headquarters was on West 8th Street below the Thompson coaster. Joe’s son John raised his family in a home below the coaster and later bought and operated Silver’s Baths. Joe owned much of the property around West 8th Street but lost it to urban renewal in the 1950s. Charles Denson tells the Bonsignore family story in his book Wild Ride! A Coney Island Roller Coaster Family. The Bonsignore family will accept the plaque

The following activities are FREE throughout the day on History Day, from 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM:

On West 12th Street from the Coney Island History Project to the Boardwalk

A display of kiosks emblazoned with colorful banners of past Coney Island Hall of Fame honorees including George C. Tilyou, founder of Steeplechase Park; Dr. Martin Couney, inventor of the baby incubator; Marcus C. Illions, developer of the Coney Island style of carousel carving; and Lady Deborah Moody, who founded the town of Gravesend in 1645, becoming the first female landowner in the new world.

David Head Coney Island Hall of Fame Granville T Woods

David Head accepting plaque honoring Granville T. Woods at 2008 Coney Island Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Photo © Coney Island History Project Collection.

David Head will sign copies of his book on African-American inventor Granville T. Woods (1856-1910), who was inducted into the Coney Island Hall of Fame in 2008. Among Woods' patents was one for the world's first electric roller coaster, which was located in Coney Island more than a century ago. Mr. Head, a retired New York City transit worker and former chairman of the Black History Committee for TWU Local 100, was instrumental in having a Coney Island street across from Stillwell Avenue Terminal renamed "Granville T. Woods Way."

Parachute Literary Arts Poetry Making Station

Parachute Literary Arts Poetry Making Station at 2015 It's My Estuary Day at Coney Island Creek. Photo © Amanda Deutch

Amanda Deutch, poet and founder of Parachute Literary Arts, will have a Poetry Making Station featuring vintage typewriters. Letterpress posters with Walt Whitman and Muriel Rukeyser's Coney Island poems will be for sale. Parachute is a community-based literary organization in Coney Island that creates site specific readings, writing workshops and poetry libraries.

Commendatore Aldo Mancusi, founder of the Enrico Caruso Museum of America, will play his hand-cranked band organ. Mr. Mancusi is a member of the Carousel Organ Association of America (COAA) and Automatic Musical Instrument Collectors Association (AMICA). Crank a tune and receive a certificate commemorating History Day!

Aldo Mancusi History Day

Commendatore Aldo Mancusi performing at History Day. Photo © Coney Island History Project 

DJ Dan Kingman will play retro tunes and lead singalongs throughout the day.

Keep an eye out for our stiltwalker for free balloons and salt water taffy while supplies last.

At Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and the Coney Island History Project

Dress in 1920s garb and get one Free Ride on the Wonder Wheel! The Wonder Wheel opens at 12:00 PM.

Walk inside the iconic 1960s Astroland Rocket, which returned to Coney Island in 2014 and has a new home beside the Wonder Wheel. Adjacent to the Rocket, see a special display of historic figures and signage from the park’s classic 1955 Spook-A-Rama dark ride.

Spook-A-Rama Deno's Wonder Wheel Park          

At the Coney Island History Project, share and preserve your Coney Island memories by recording an interview for our Oral History Archive. View historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and film, and the special exhibit “The 50th Anniversary of Fred Trump’s Demolition of the Steeplechase Pavilion.”

Take free souvenir photos with old-timey cutouts at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and with the Coney Island History Project's “Skully” from Coney’s Spookhouse and an original Steeplechase horse from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park its name.

History Day Deno's Wonder Wheel Park

posted Jul 25th, 2016 in Events and tagged with History Day, Coney Island, Deno's Wonder Wheel Park,...