Archive for March, 2012
April 1: Preview the History Project Exhibition Center on Coney Island’s Opening Day
Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

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You’re invited to preview the Coney Island History Project’s exhibition center on Coney Island’s opening day of the 2012 season. Located on West 12th Street at the entrance to Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, our newly expanded exhibition center–twice the size of last year–will be open from 12 noon to 6 pm on Sunday, April 1. Admission is free of charge. Palm Sunday is the official season opener for Coney Island’s rides and attractions. Starting at 11 am with the 34-year-old family tradition of the “Blessing of the Rides,” the Vourderis family of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park will host an opening day celebration. Hope to see you at the festivities!

Stop by our exhibit center to view historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films of Coney Island’s colorful past and preview selections from our 2012 season.

This year’s exhibitions will feature never-before-seen vintage films and photos, folk art treasures, and rediscovered wonders from Wonder Wheel Park. Our popular Steeplechase horse from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park its name will be on display again, along with a rare Mangels “Fairy Whip” car and the original Coney Island toll house sign from 1823. Colorful banners depicting honorees of the Coney Island Hall of Fame will also be on display on Jones Walk in Wonder Wheel Park.

You’ll find the Coney Island History Project’s exhibition center under the Wonder Wheel’s iconic entrance sign on Denos D. Vourderis Place (West 12th Street), just a few steps off the Boardwalk. We’ll also be open on Easter Sunday and for special events in April and May–visit our Facebook page or follow us on twitter for updates. Our regular exhibition season is from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. Hours are 12 to 6 pm on Saturdays, Sunday and holidays. The exhibit center is open year-round by appointment for schools and groups. For additional info, e-mail events@coneyislandhistory.org

April 3: Charles Denson Talk & Tour of Coney Island Creek in Kaiser Park
Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

coney island creek

On Tuesday, April 3rd, Charles Denson will give a talk and slide show about Coney Island Creek’s history and future to be followed by a short walking tour of the creekfront at Kaiser Park. Held at Kaiser Park House,the event is open to all interested community groups, and stakeholders in the Coney Island area, and anyone who wants to learn about an important and vital estuary, the last remnant of a thousand acre wetland that has disappeared through development.

The focus of the meeting is the creek’s relationship to the Coney Island community and the three NYC parks that border the creek: Kaiser Park, Calvert Vaux Park, and Coney Island Creek Park. Everyone is invited to share their views and ideas about the waterway’s future.

The talk covers the environmental, recreational, political, and spiritual aspects of the Creek. Denson has documented the creek for over 40 years and is working on a book and film about the waterway.

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“Coney Island as a resort began not on the ocean but on the banks of the Creek nearly two hundred years ago,” says Denson.”The first hotel, restaurant and amusement park opened on the banks of Coney Island creek, and the history goes back nearly 400 years. The creek has great potential.” Charles Denson, Executive Director of the Coney Island History Project, received a grant from the Partnership for Parks to create a self-guided walking tour brochure and a series of informational plaques to be installed on the creek side of Kaiser Park.

Making Waves: Exploring Opportunities Along Kaiser Park Waterfront
Tuesday, April 3rd, 3 pm – 5 pm, Kaiser Park House
Enter at 29th St and Neptune Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11224
Travel directions: B, F, N or Q to Coney Island, Stillwell Avenue. Take the B74 to Mermaid Avenue and West 31st Street. Walk one block north to park.
Due to limited seating, this free event requires advance reservations. Please register online via info@coneyislandhistory.org. For additional info phone the Coney Island History Project at 347-702-8553.

The event is organized by Partnership for Parks, Friends of Kaiser Park and the Coney Island History Project.

Secrets of Coney Island Creek,” an exhibit of Charles Denson’s photos, is on view in vitrines in the lobby and on the 2nd floor of the Coney Island branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. The library is located on Mermaid Avenue at West 19th Street. Click here for hours and directions.

Seeing Coney Island: History Project Walking Tours & School Visits
Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

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Take a stroll through Coney Island’s amusement district–past, present and future–with the Coney Island History Project. Our unique walking 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.

Tours are led by historian Charles Denson or poet/teaching artist Amanda Deutch, who have over 100 years of family history in Coney Island! The 1-1/2 hour tour includes a private visit to the History Project’s exhibit center and a talk on the exhibits and objects on display.

Sunday Walking Tours are scheduled during Coney Island’s season, which runs from April through October. Tours are approximately one mile in length and wheelchair accessible. Tickets for Sunday tours are $20 and available by advance reservation. Throughout the year, individuals and groups may schedule a private walking tour and visit to our exhibition center on a weekday or weekend. For info and reservations, email events@coneyislandhistory.org.

In Memorium: Jerry Albert, Co-Founder of Astroland Park
Friday, March 16th, 2012
In 2004 Carol Hill Albert and Jerry Albert founded the Coney Island History Project in memory of Dewey Albert.

In 2004 Carol Hill Albert and Jerry Albert founded
the Coney Island History Project in memory of Dewey Albert.

Jerry Albert was a passionate believer in Coney Island. You had to be a believer to accomplish what he did. It began when Jerry’s father, Dewey, bought the derelict Feltmans Restaurant property as a favor for Nathan Handwerker, who wanted to move his Nathans Famous restaurant to the 3-acre Feltmans site. When the deal to move Nathans fell through, Dewey turned to his son for help.

Jerry Albert grew up on the beachfront in Sea Gate at Coney Island’s West End, enjoying a childhood of building boats and exploring the waters of Gravesend Bay and Coney Island Creek. His sense of adventure would inspire him to create something unique in Coney Island.

Jerry accepted the challenge and began creating the space-age-themed amusement park called Astroland. His optimistic motto was “A Journey to the 21st Century. Jerry proved to be a visionary and he transformed Coney’s oldest attraction into its newest.

Coney Island was fading in the early 1960s, and was in desperate need of a lift. While many were giving up and closing their businesses, Jerry Albert was an ambitious young man who understood the potential in the amusement zone and wanted only the best. Resurrecting Coney Island became his quest. He traveled across Europe seeking the newest, most exciting rides for the park he envisioned. After returning, he headed west and teamed up with Disney ride builder Arrow Development to create unique rides for the park. The old Feltmans property soon began a radical transformation. In 1964, after a $3-million-dollar investment, Astroland Park opened with an exciting assortment of unique rides: the Water Flume, a The Mercury Capsule Sky Ride, Deep Sea Diving Bells, and a Moon Rocket, all new attractions never before seen on the east coast.

All amusement parks need a tower and Jerry made sure that Coney had one. The futuristic Astrotower with its circular observation car became the park’s centerpiece. The newspapers dubbed it “The Big Bagel in the Sky” and one declared that: “There’s only one place where anyone would dare to put up such a thing, and that’s Coney Island, that land of the frivolous, where gaiety and fun have reigned for years. We’re glad to see the old place hasn’t lost its zest for the bizarre.” Jerry embraced the tower’s “bagel” theme and served a spread of bagels and lox at the tower’s dedication. The space-age theme caught the public imagination as Variety declared in a front-page story “Nowhere is this fierce concern with rocket propulsion, satellite launchings and lunar landings more evident than at the new Astroland…”

Astroland would continue to sponsor popular events, from Coney’s first film festival, in 1963, to the dramatic air shows of the 1980s. Albert had a love of antique cars and classic wooden yachts. Among his lovingly restored antique cars was a pearl green 1960 Cadillac, a regular entrant in the Mermaid Parade, which he kept on display below the Cyclone Roller Coaster.

Jerry’s enthusiasm and investment in Coney Island proved to be pivotal, a turning point for Coney Island that helped keep it afloat for nearly half a century. He oversaw the restoration of the landmark Cyclone Roller Coaster, saving it from destruction. He was an admired civic leader and a faithful booster. As long as Jerry had a say, Coney would survive the turmoil that forced so many others to give up. Under Jerry’s leadership Astroland thrived as he continued journeying across the country on a quest to find the most exciting rides and attractions for Coney Island. After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Albert considered selling his beloved Astroland Park but instead retired and turned over park operations to his wife, Carol Hill Albert, who ran it successfully through its last decade.

—Charles Denson

Dewey and Jerry Albert

Dewey and Jerry Albert

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