Coney Island History Project Executive Director Charles Denson visited two classes at PS 226 as part of the Brooklyn Public Library’s educational outreach program. The students were completing a year-long project about Coney Island that included debates about development, creating video documentaries, and site visits to the neighborhood. The program was developed by the Brooklyn Public Library’s local history division, Brooklyn Connections, which has also invited Denson to speak at a workshop for teachers called “Local History in the Classroom.”
“The students were incredible,” said Denson. “They were fascinated by Coney Island’s history and asked probing questions about development, culture, and the past and future of the community. They were also interested in the techniques of primary source research, which really surprised me.” Denson’s book, “Coney Island: Lost and Found” was used as the program’s textbook. “In the past the Coney Island History Project has worked with local schools PS 188 and Mark Twain, and we hope to expand the history program this year to include local ecology and how climate change will affect Coney Island’s future,” said Denson.
Missed Opening Day? Visit the Coney Island History Project on Easter, one of Coney’s most popular days of the season, to preview our 2013 exhibits. Located on West 12th Street at the entrance to Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, our exhibition center–rebuilt after Superstorm Sandy–will be open from 1 PM to 6 PM on Sunday, March 31. Admission is free for one and all!
You’re invited to take a free souvenir photo with the Spook-A-Rama Cyclops seen in the above slide show of Opening Day. This amazing piece of folk art was originally on the roof of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park’s 1950s dark ride, which was restored after flood damage from Superstorm Sandy.
This season, the History Project will exhibit films and photos about Sandy’s impact on Coney Island. As part of our continuing oral history project we’ll be recording personal stories about the storm’s aftermath and how it affected the Coney Island community. The public is invited to come to our exhibit center for an audio or video recording, or we can come to your home or business.
Additional exhibits for 2013 include “Coney Island Creek,” “The Wonder Wheel: Coney Island’s Iconic Amusement Attraction,” and “The Curious Art of Larry Millard,” an artist whose murals covered the now-demolished Playland Arcade.
The History Project’s regular exhibition season is from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. Hours are 12 noon to 6 PM on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. In the spring, we’re open for oral history interviews (by appointment), walking tours (by advance reservation) and special events (TBA). For additional info, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Coney Island History Project’s multi-year mission to save and document the unusual murals inside the Playland Building ended successfully today with the removal of several of Larry Millard’s iconic artworks and the remaining letters from the Bowery entrance’s neon sign hours before demolition. The building has been vacant since Playland Arcade closed in 1981. All of the murals were carefully documented over a period of five years. Previously saved murals were displayed at our exhibit center last year. CIHP Director Charles Denson worked with Gateway Demolition to remove several of the murals just before demolition. Our previous efforts at preservation were hampered by trespassers, vandals, black mold, the untimely death of Playland’s caretaker, Andy Badalamenti, as well as Superstorm Sandy. The Coney Island History Project will have an exhibit this season.
The damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy on the Coney Island History Project’s West 12th Street exhibition center, and our determination to rebuild in time for the 2013 summer season, was recently covered by NY1 News in an interview with Project executive director Charles Denson. You can view the entire interview on the NY1 web site.
Alvy West (born Alvin Weisfeld), a noted musician, long-time resident of Sea Gate and a familiar presence on the Coney Island boardwalk died on November 30, 2012 at the age of 97. He is survived by four children, John, Sara Jo, Barbara and Jim, three grandchildren and five great grandchildren. He was married to his late wife Kittie for over fifty years. Alvy West is the uncle of the late Jerome Albert, former owner of Astroland Park and co-founder of the Coney Island History Project. Coney Island residents were thrilled the year Alvy West volunteered himself and his band for one of the Cyclone’s Opening Days.
Alvy was an accomplished alto sax player, composer, arranger and conductor of note who worked with some of the greats of the music industry including Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, and Anita O’Day and was the musical director for Andy Williams and other television shows. In his early years, he toured with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and then led his own combo, the Little Band, which a Billboard review said more than lived up to its advance praise when they played at the Hotel Edison’s Green Room: “The group’s new sound is built around the delicate tone of the maestro’s alto sax, which aside from the occasional solo flights, predominately weaves unison melodies with one or more of the other six guys in the band. The end product sound is full but far more distinctive than that put out by many full-size orks [orchestras].” Alvy’s musical legacy is being carried out by his son Jim West, a noted jazz pianist.
A private funeral service for family was held Monday, December 3, 2012. The date and time for a memorial celebration of Alvy’s life for family and friends will be announced at a future time.
Four feet of water from Hurricane Sandy surged into the Coney Island History Project, causing extensive damage to our exhibit center and office on 12th Street near the Boardwalk. Over the weekend, like our friends and neighbors in Coney Island, we began a major clean up effort. Artifacts and photographs that might be saved were hosed down with water. Walls had to be ripped out and desks, cabinets and display cases, already rusted and rotting from the salt water, were dragged to the curb as trash.
“Coney Island has been destroyed many times,” said History Project director Charles Denson, who rode out the storm in Sea Gate, where his apartment flooded and his car floated away. “In the past it has burned to the ground and been ripped apart by storms.. And it has always recovered. We plan to be back better than ever.”
Summer is over, but the Coney Island History Project is open for walking tours and school groups in the fall! Take a stroll through the amusement area’s past, present and future with the Coney Island History Project Walking Tour. Our unique walking tours are based on Coney Island 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.
Walking tours are led by historian Charles Denson or poet/teaching artist Amanda Deutch, who have over 100 years of family history in Coney Island. All tours of the amusement area begin with a private visit to the History Project’s expanded 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. The 1-1/2 hour, wheelchair accessible tour includes a talk on the exhibits and objects on display.
Fall, Winter & Spring Walking Tours: From September 5, 2012 through May 24, 2013, Coney Island History Project Walking Tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays by advance reservation only. Individuals and groups may also book a private tour on a weekend or weekday. For info on purchasing tickets or questions about scheduling a tour, please email email@example.com
Summer Walking Tours: From Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend, when the Coney Island History Project exhibit center is open for the season, tours begin on Saturdays and Sundays from 1pm.
What People Are Saying About Coney Island History Project Tours:
“Very cool tour! It was lots of fun and interesting. Thanks & keep up the good work!! Go history!” –Marie Carianna, Astoria, Queens
“Thank you very much for this instructive and lively experience!” –Roland Junt, Reningen, Germany
“Thoroughly enjoyable– and will recommend.” –Richard and Patti Gillespie, Texas
“Great tour with a lot of interesting information and sites. Coney Island is now on the top of my list of places I would like to visit again. Thanks, Amanda.”–Ananda, South Africa (now West Orange, N.J.)
“Loved the walking tour with Amanda. Great visit back to my childhood-and more.”–Randy, Roseland, N.J.
For Coney news, conversation, photos and special features like “On this Day in History,” please visit the Coney Island History Project’s Facebook Page and “like” us! Follow us on Twitter for news and views in 140 characters and check out our photos on Flickr.
PLUS Professor Phineas Feelgood’s World of Magic Visits the History Project
On Sunday, October 21st, the Coney Island History Project will be open from 12 noon till 5pm for an autumn get-together celebrating the ongoing exhibit “Coney Island Kids See Coney Island!” Young people who live or go to school in Coney Island and are currently in grades K-12 are invited to be part of this special exhibit featuring their perceptions of their neighborhood. Artwork and poems are featured in a digital slide show and a rotating display of original work at the Coney Island History Project’s free exhibit center. Work is also being shown online via our flickr photo sharing page and Facebook.
From 2-4pm, our special guest Bob Yorburg aka Professor Phineas Feelgood will perform Coney Island style magic. He will also bring along Punch and Judy puppets from his collection that belonged to Al Flosso aka The Coney Island Fakir. These puppets were used by Al in the early 1900′s while he performed magic and Punch shows. Bob will also bring promotional materials used by Al Flosso in the 1910′s. His fascination with turn-of-the-19th-century Coney Island, magic and the amusement arts began when he was a child. Since then he has been performing magic and a flea circus and carving amusement items reflecting old-time Coney Island.
Mail original work up to 11 x 17″ to Coney Island History Project, c/o Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, 3059 West 12th St, Brooklyn NY 11224
Bring work to the Coney Island History Project during exhibit center hours.
There is no fee to enter the show. Include the artist’s name, age, zip code and school. Photos of people requiring a release are not eligible.
The project is supported by a JPMorgan Chase Foundation Grant by the Brooklyn Arts Council. The JPMorgan Chase grants support Brooklyn-based arts organizations whose primary mission is to provide arts and cultural activities open to the general public.
This organization has received funding from the 2012 JPMorgan Chase Regrant Program, administered by Brooklyn Arts Council, Inc. (BAC).
Pick up a Copy of Coney Island CreekWalk and Take a Self-Guided Tour
Join us on Saturday, October 20th, for the Beneath the Sea Waterfront Celebration and Coastal Clean Up from 10am. The free event in Coney Island’s Kaiser Park includes an array of activities: scuba diving and hard-hat diving, marine education exhibits and demonstrations, robots that go underwater, arts and crafts such as pumpkin painting and making bird feeders, music and entertainment, and a waterfront walking tour.
Stop by the Coney Island History Project’s table for a free copy of the walking tour brochure “Coney Island CreekWalk at Kaiser Park” and take a self-guided tour. The signs along the waterfront and the brochure were created by Charles Denson and produced by the Coney Island History Project with funding from a Partnership for Parks Catalyst Grant. The popular brochure is in its second printing and will also be available at the History Project exhibit center during October’s special events.
The CreekWalk at Kaiser Park is a starting point for experiencing the creek’s ecology and history, including the fishing pier, ship graveyard (including the wreck of the Yellow Submarine), wildlife, sand dunes, and other points of interest.
Special guests at the October 20th event at Kaiser Park include Gene Ritter of Cultural Research Divers, discoverer of the Dreamland Bell; Bill Evans, author, diver and WABC-TV weatherman; and Rod Roddenberry, founder of the Roddenberry Dive Team and producer of Trek Nation.