Coney Island Blog - Events


Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive

Summer always goes by too fast! With only four more weekends till Labor Day, the Coney Island History Project announces a series of themed history weekends at our exhibition center to pique your interest in sharing your Coney Island stories. For inspiration, listen to some of the oral histories in our online archive before you visit. You may also listen to excerpts from the History Project's oral history archive at the exhibition center via our new SoundStik audio handset. 

Interviews are recorded in person during exhibition center hours- Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays thru Labor Day, 1-7 PM - or by appointment year-round. We have recorded interviews in English, Russian, Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish, Turkish and Italian!

SCHEDULE AN ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW:

August 10 and 11, Under the Boardwalk and On the Beach... Favorite memories, outings with family & friends, first trip to Coney Island--even if it's today--because memories are in the making.

August 17 and 18, Childhood Days... Carousel and kiddie ride memories, being tall enough to ride the Cyclone or Parachute Jump for the first time, your very first memory of Coney Island.

August 24 and 25, Neighborhood Coney Island... Did you grow up or live here? Visit family or friends who live here? Have a summer job in the amusement area or work in the neighborhood?

August 31 and September 1-2, Romantic Coney Island! Did you meet your true love in Coney Island, go on your first date or fall in love here?

The Coney Island History Project is located at 3059 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, and this season's special exhibit "Salvation by the Sea." Admission is free of charge.

Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive
Listen to excerpts from the Coney Island History Project's oral history archive at the exhibition center via our new SoundStik audio handset.

Lead photo: Jiangxin Jin recording an oral history for the Coney Island History Project with Yi Xin Tong, an artist from China's Mount Lushan who has lived in Gravesend for six years. He describes Coney Island Creek as "the place that I can feel closest to home in New York."  Photo: Coney Island History Project

National Night Out

This Tuesday, August 6th, is National Night Out, an annual event that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie. Coney Island's 60th Precinct, PSA #1, and Transit District 34 are hosting this year's block party on our block - West 12th Street between Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk. Enjoy music, free food, bounce houses, vendors, giveaways and more from 5-8 PM. The Coney Island History Project will open our exhibition center for the event and give away souvenir buttons while supplies last. The 60th Precinct National Night Out is sponsored by Deno's Wonder Wheel and Investors Bank.

posted Aug 5th, 2019 in Events and tagged with National Night Out, Night Out New York, Night Out,...

Seaside Home

The Coney Island History Project's special exhibition for the 2019 season, opening on Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday, May 25th, is "Salvation by the Sea: Coney Island's 19th Century Fresh Air Cure and Immigrant Aid Societies."

During the late 1800s and early 1900s Coney Island served as a place of salvation for European immigrants fleeing poverty and persecution. Charitable Summer Seaside Homes for the poor, supported by the city's wealthy, provided impoverished immigrant mothers and children with a respite from steaming, disease-filled tenements.  
 
At the same time, Coney's expanding amusement business provided business opportunities for immigrants of small means. This exhibit explores a little-known era of Coney Island's history by examining the role that the beachfront played in saving lives and providing a livelihood for the waves of immigrants that fled their homelands to seek freedom and new lives in America. Our exhibit tells the story through photos, articles, maps, and oral history.  

Salvation by the Sea at the Coney Island History Project

2019 marks the 15th anniversary of the Coney Island History Project! Since the History Project's inception in 2004 with a portable recording booth on the Boardwalk and the inaugural season of our exhibition center in 2007, we have proudly offered "Free Admission for One and All!" at our exhibits and special events. Our exhibition center is open free of charge on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. We're located at 3059 West 12th Street, adjacent to the 12th Street 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.  Share and preserve your Coney Island memories by recording an interview for our Oral History Archive. 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 in our collection dates back to the days when the toll for a horse and rider to "the Island" was 5 cents!

Jane's Walk NYC Coney Island

Missed our annual Immigrant Heritage Tour of Coney Island for Immigrant Heritage Week? The Coney Island History Project is pleased to offer this special walking tour free of charge on May 5th at 1PM as part of Jane's Walk NYC 2019! Organized by the Municipal Art Society of New York, the festival includes over 200 free guided walks and takes place the first weekend in May every year to coincide with urban activist Jane Jacobs' birthday.

Among the stops on the Immigrant Heritage Tour of Coney Island and the stories of struggle, success and achievement are Nathan's Famous, founded in 1916 by Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker; Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, where the landmark 1920 Wonder Wheel was purchased by Greek immigrant Denos D. Vourderis as a wedding ring for his wife Lula; and the B&B Carousell, created in 1919 by German and Russian immigrants and now Coney's last hand-carved wooden carousel. The tour will also highlight businesses operated by immigrants who have recorded their stories for the Coney Island History Project's Oral History Archive.

Tickets must be reserved in advance via the History Project's eventbrite page and reservations are limited to 2 per person as capacity is limited.  The tour starts in front of the Coney Island History Project, 3059 West 12th St (adjacent to the 12th Street entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park), Brooklyn NY 11224. The tour ends at the B&B Carousell, 1615 Riegelmann Boardwalk, Brooklyn, NY 11224

The walking tour takes 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes, depending on the size of the group. Walking tours are held rain or shine. We reserve the right to cancel tours in the event of potentially dangerous weather.

This program is supported, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York City Councilman Mark Treyger.

posted Apr 30th, 2019 in Events and tagged with Jane's Walk, Jane's Walk NYC, Jane Jacobs,...

History Day Deno's Wonder Wheel Park Coney Island History Project

Save the Date! Sunday, June 9th, 2019, from 2pm - 6pm

Eighth Annual History Day at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and the Coney Island History Project

Celebrating Coney Island's Immigrant Heritage!

Hosted by Deno John Vourderis, Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and 
Charles Denson, Coney Island History Project 
 
Enjoy Free Live Music, Entertainment and History, including performances by musicians and dancers representing the traditional culture of countries from which people have emigrated to Coney Island:

3:00 PM: Brighton Ballet Theater School of Russian Ballet - Local students from school founded by Irina Roizin perform classical ballet and Ukrainian folk dance

3:45PM: Gaston "Bonga" Jean-Baptiste - Master Haitian drummer

4:15PM: Jenny Luna: Songs in the Turkish and Rumeli traditions

4:30PM: New York Music and Dance Organization - Bensonhurst-based Chinese dance troupe founded by Julia Liu

5:30PM:  Mariachi Real de Mexico de Ramon Ponce - New York's premier mariachi

Plus DJ Dan Kingman, special guest artists and table top displays

The Opening Ceremony at 2pm will be followed by Free Live Entertainment from 3-6pm on the Boardwalk Stage in front of Deno's Wonder Wheel Park

History Day

"I love Coney Island," said Deno John Vourderis, a third generation member of the family that owns and operates the world famous Deno's Wonder Wheel. "We are what we have always been, a place where all people come to play. And my favorite part about working here is seeing people who half a world away are at war but in Coney Island stand next to each other in line, their children smiling at each other in mutual excitement before stepping into a ride together."

"For more than a century, Coney Island served as the true historic 'melting pot' for New York City's immigrant population," said Charles Denson, author of Coney Island: Lost and Found and director of the Coney Island History Project. "It remains a place of great diversity, where people of small means enjoy an affordable day of free recreation on the beach and Boardwalk. Coney Island continues to be a destination for immigrants, the place to assimilate with people of all nationalities. It's where they finally find true freedom and become Americans."

About Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park
Built in 1920, the NYC landmark Deno's Wonder Wheel turned 99 on Memorial Day and will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2020. Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park founder Denos D. Vourderis, the 8th of 22 children, immigrated to the United States at age 14 to pursue the American Dream. He was born in Greece in 1920, the same year as the Wonder Wheel that he would buy in 1983 as a wedding ring for his wife Lula, restore to its original state, and build his amusement park around. The park now features 21 rides as well as arcades, games, Famiglia Pizzeria and an old fashioned Sweet Shoppe, and proudly hosts the Coney Island History Project. It is owned and operated by Dennis and Steve Vourderis and their sons, the second and third generations of the Vourderis family. West 12th Street, between Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk, was co-named Denos D. Vourderis Place in 2001.

About the Coney Island History Project
Founded in 2004 by Carol Hill Albert and Jerome Albert in honor of Dewey Albert, creator of Astroland Park, the Coney Island History Project is a not-for-profit organization that aims to increase awareness of Coney Island's legendary past and to encourage appreciation of the Coney Island neighborhood of today. Admission is free of charge to our exhibition center located on West 12th Street at the entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. Hours are 1-7 PM on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. This season's special exhibit is "Salvation by the Sea: Coney Island's 19th Century Fresh Air Cure and Immigrant Aid Societies," curated by executive director Charles Denson. Our multilingual offerings include a brochure in 10 languages, English and Chinese language walking tours, and oral history interviews recorded in several languages.
 
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
events[AT]Coneyislandhistory[DOT]org

DCLA logo

The Coney Island History Project's programs are supported in part by public funds from the NYC Dept of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the NYC City Council, New York City Councilman Mark Treyger, and our members and contributors. 

 

posted Apr 23rd, 2019 in Events and tagged with Coney Island, History Day, Deno's Wonder Wheel Park,...

Coney Island History Project

Photo: Jim McDonnell

You're invited to visit the Coney Island History Project's exhibition center on Coney's traditional Opening Day, Palm Sunday, April 14, and on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019. We'll be open special hours from 1:00PM-6:00PM. Admission is free of charge. 
 
View historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films of Coney Island's colorful past as well as our special exhibit Coney Island Creek and the Natural World. Photographs by the winners of last fall's Astroland Remembered Photo Contest will be on display. Take a free souvenir photo with the iconic Cyclops head from Deno's Spook-A-Rama dark ride and an original Steeplechase horse from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park its name. Among the treasures on display is Coney Island's oldest surviving artifact: The 1823 wooden Toll House Sign dates back to the days when the toll for a horse and rider to go over Coney Island Creek to "the island" was 5 cents! 

2019 marks the 15th anniversary of the Coney Island History Project and our ninth season at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. Since our inception in 2004 with a portable booth on the Boardwalk for recording oral history interviews, we have proudly offered "Free Admission for One and All!" at our exhibits and special events.

Opening Day festivities start at 10:30AM on the Boardwalk with the Annual Blessing of the Rides at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. The late Pastor Debbe Santiago of Coney Island's Salt and Sea Mission originated the event with Denos D. Vourderis, who invited children from the Mission to enjoy free rides, a tradition that continues today.

Deacon Toyin Fakumoju of the Mission will lead the Blessing and the NYC Fire Department Ceremonial Unit will present the colors and sing the National Anthem. A ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by the Vourderis family will be followed by free rides on the Wonder Wheel for the first 99 guests in celebration of the Wheel's 99th year. 

Join us at 2:00PM on Coney Island's Opening Day for a special Walking Tour of the newly landmarked Boardwalk led by historian and History Project director Charles Denson. Tickets for this 1- 1/2 hour, wheelchair accessible tour are $25 and help support the free programming of the Coney Island History Project, a 501c3 not-for-profit organization. The April 14 tour is limited to approximately 25 people. Advance tickets may be purchased here via eventbrite.

Join us on Easter Sunday, April 21st,  to learn about the contributions of immigrants to the history and development of "The Playground of the World" on our Immigrant Heritage Tour of Coney Island conducted in English (at 12:00PM) and Mandarin (at 3:00PM). The Coney Island History Project is offering this special walking tour free of charge as part of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs celebration of Immigrant Heritage Week 2019. Due to limited capacity, tickets must be reserved in advance here via our eventbrite page.

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. 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.

posted Mar 29th, 2019 in Events and tagged with Coney Island, Opening Day, Palm Sunday,...

Coney Island History Project Immigrant Heritage Tour

On Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, learn about the contributions of immigrants to the history and development of "The Playground of the World" on our Immigrant Heritage Tour of Coney Island (康尼岛移民文化遗产之旅) conducted in English (12:00 PM) and (Mandarin 3:00 PM). The Coney Island History Project is offering this special walking tour as part of Immigrant Heritage Week 2019.  Tickets are free of charge for the 1-1/2 hour, wheelchair accessible tour but must be reserved online as each tour is limited to 40 participants. Advance ticketing is available via our online reservation page on Eventbrite. If you have a question, please email events@coneyislandhistory.org.

Among the stops on the walking tour and the stories of struggle, success and achievement are Nathan's Famous, founded in 1916 by Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker; Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, where the landmark 1920 Wonder Wheel was purchased by Greek immigrant Denos D. Vourderis as a wedding ring for his wife; and the B&B Carousell, created in 1919 by German and Russian immigrants and now Coney's last hand-carved wooden carousel.

Coordinated by the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA), Immigrant Heritage Week is an annual citywide program of events celebrating the history, traditions and contributions of New York City's diverse immigrant communities.  IHW 2019 is scheduled for April 15-21 in recognition of April 17, 1907, the date when more immigrants entered the U.S. through Ellis Island than any other date in history. 

"Coney Island has traditionally been a place where immigrants who wanted to start a business could start small and work their way up," says Charles Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project. "A person of small means with no experience or capital could lease a stall on the Bowery and open a game concession with nothing more than a few baseballs and milk bottles. Coney was also the place where immigrant families could escape steaming tenements, get fresh air, bathe in the ocean and assimilate with people of all nationalities. It's where they finally found true freedom and became Americans."

The walking tour will also highlight businesses operated by immigrants from Hong Kong, Jamaica, Mexico, Russia and Ukraine who have recorded their stories for the Coney Island History Project's Oral History Archive. The Immigrant Heritage Tour will be led by Tricia Vita and Sylvia Ching Man Wong, who facilitate and record oral histories for the Coney Island History Project. 

Please note that the Coney Island History Project exhibit center will be open special hours on April 21, Easter Sunday, from 1:00PM-6:00PM. Admission is free of charge. Visitors are invited to 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. Among the treasures on display at the Coney Island History Project’s exhibit center this season 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! Today, the nearly two century old sign is often described as Coney Island's "first admission ticket."

The Coney Island History Project, founded in 2004, is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that aims to increase awareness of Coney Island's legendary and colorful past and to encourage appreciation of the Coney Island neighborhood of today. Our mission is to record, archive and share oral history interviews; provide access to historical artifacts and documentary material through educational exhibits, events and a website; and honor community leaders and amusement pioneers through our Coney Island Hall of Fame.

This program is supported, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York City Councilman Mark Treyger, and our members and contributors.

posted Feb 4th, 2019 in Events and tagged with Immigrant Heritage Week, immigrants, Coney Island,...

Coney Island History Project Walking Tour

Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson leading a workshop and walking tour for teachers as part of the Brooklyn Public Library's Brooklyn Connections, a professional learning program for educators

Stroll through Coney past, present and future with the Coney Island History Project Walking Tour! This year, visitors from near (New York City, Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey), far (California, Florida, Louisiana and Oregon) and around the world (Costa Rica, England, Germany and Spain) joined our weekend tours. Among the groups for whom we conducted special tours this season were the Brooklyn Public Library's Brooklyn Connections, a professional learning program for educators; the Historic Districts Council’s Six to Celebrate, a preservation advocacy initiative; and Transition Network, a national organization for women over 50. School groups, company outings, and private groups celebrating reunions and birthdays also joined us for special tours.

Offered year-round, our 1-1/2 hour, wheelchair accessible tour includes a private visit to the Coney Island History Project's exhibit center. 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. Visit our online reservation site to see the walking tour schedule and purchase advance tickets online. Tickets are $25 and help support the free programming of the Coney Island History Project, a 501c3 not-for-profit organization.

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 events [AT] coneyislandhistory [DOT] org.

posted Oct 21st, 2018 in Events and tagged with Tours, Walking Tour, Coney Island,...

Astroland Remembered Photo by Charles Denson

Photo: © Charles Denson

"Astroland Park, created at the dawn of the space age, mirrored the wide-eyed optimism of the early 1960s and helped Coney Island survive the closure of Steeplechase Park," writes Charles Denson in Coney Island and Astroland.  

On Saturday, September 8, the Coney Island History Project will open special hours to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the closing of Astroland Park, Deno's Wonder Wheel Park will have a free movie screening in the Astroland Rocket, and former Astroland employees are hosting an Astroland Reunion in Coney Island.

From now through September 29, the public is invited to enter the Coney Island History Project's Astroland Remembered Photo Contest on our websiteEnter the Astroland Remembered Photo Contest! and Facebook page. Share your favorite photos of yourself, family and friends at Astroland taken anytime from 1962 through 2008. Winners will receive an autographed copy of Coney Island and Astroland and a Coney Island History Project Walking Tour for you and three of your friends. Winning photos will be exhibited at the Coney Island History project next season on Coney Island's Opening Day! 

Astroland Remembered Photo Contest

Photos: © Coney Island History Project/ Astroland Archives

Astroland fans, friends and former employees are invited to visit the Coney Island History Project's exhibit center on September 8 from 1-5 PM to view historic artifacts, banners, signage and photos of Astroland's unique attractions including the Astrotower, Diving Bell, Rocket and Sky Ride. Admission is free of charge. Visitors may record their memories of Astroland for our oral history archive and bring photos to reminisce over and scan for our collection. The Coney Island History Project was founded in 2004 by Carol Hill Albert and Jerome Albert in honor of Dewey Albert, creator of Astroland Park.

Ten years after the legendary park's closing, the heritage continues at the Coney Island History Project and Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. In 2014, the History Project teamed up with the Vourderis family, owners of Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, to bring back the iconic Astroland Rocket, which has a new home adjacent to the Wonder Wheel. Originally built as the "Star Flyer," the Rocket was the first ride at Astroland and 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. 

On September 8, from 12-6 PM, visitors are invited to sit in one of the Rocket's 26 seats and watch the movie The Rocket Has Landed. The 18-minute film by Charles Denson 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. Admission to the Rocket and movie screenings will be free of charge. The giant gorilla from Astroland's Dante's Inferno has also found a new home, outside Deno's Spook-A-Rama, and stands ready to pose for souvenir photos.

Astroland Bumper Cars at Deno's Wonder Wheel

Photo: © Jim McDonnell

When Astroland closed, its rides went to parks around the world and one of the stars from its Surf Avenue gate joined the collection of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. Deno's Wonder Wheel Park's Barbieri bumper cars, the largest bumper car ride in New York City, is the only Astroland ride currently in operation in Coney Island.  Go for a nostalgic spin under its magical rainbow-hued pavilion located adjacent to the Wonder Wheel. For ticket info, visit Deno's website. Deno's Wonder Wheel Park is open daily through Labor Day, and on weekends and school holidays  through the end of October.

A group of former Astroland employees has organized a September 8th reunion with a BBQ and music from 2-7 PM at the Unknown Bikers Club on Coney Island's Bowery, next to the Nets store. All former Astroland employees and friends as well as the public are welcome to attend. Donation is $10 at the door. For information, visit the Facebook event page.

Photo: © Coney Island History Project/ Astroland Archives

Photo: © Coney Island History Project/ Astroland Archives

posted Aug 30th, 2018 in Events and tagged with Astroland, Astroland Remembered, September 8,...