November 20th, 2013

Coney Island Lois Wilson

In 1928, when John F. Kennedy was a young boy living with his family in the Bronx (the Riverdale section, not the South Bronx), his father, Joe, was forming RKO studios and producing a movie called “Coney Island. ” The flick starred silent picture queen Lois Wilson and was directed by Ralph Ince.

Presented by Jopseh P. Kennedy

The motion picture industry had recently moved from Brooklyn (Vitagraph Studios in Midwood) to Hollywood and most of the Coney scenes were shot in Los Angeles. Promotion for the film described it as the story of ” a young woman swept up in the romantic magic of America’s favorite fun destination. . . “

Joseph P. Kennedy sold his movie studios in the early 1930s, went into the liquor business, and then into politics as President Roosevelt’s ambassador to Great Britain. The rest is history.

Coney Island, silent film

November 6th, 2013

Mark Treyger

The Coney Island History Project congratulates History teacher Mark Treyger on his election as Coney Island’s new councilman. Councilman-elect Treyger begins his term sporting an impressive public service record. His campaign focused on education, the environment, tenants’ rights, and youth employment, all issues vitally important to Coney Island. But perhaps his most important attribute is an understanding of history. Mr. Treyger is a fan of the book Coney Island: Lost and Found and he will now have a hand in shaping Coney’s place in history and the future of New York.

November 5th, 2013

Coney Island History Project: Then and Now

Can you identify these still existing 19th-century Coney Island buildings?

One of the new features on our soon-to-be-released revamped website will identify historic Coney Island buildings, tell their histories, and show the structure’s evolution by using before and after photos.

October 31st, 2013

Spook-A-Rama Cyclops Coney Island

Happy Halloween from Mr. Cyclops and the Coney Island History Project! During the off-season, Coney Island History Project Walking Tours include a private visit to our exhibit center. This Spook-A-Rama veteran used to be on the roof of the iconic 1950s dark ride, which was restored after Sandy and is still in operation. “We didn’t just want to be back,” said Dennis Vourderis, who owns and operates Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park with his brother, Steve, in an article in the Wall St Journal. “We wanted to be better. We wanted to stay special.” The Cyclops is on loan from the Vourderis family of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park.

October 31st, 2013

Merryl Kafak and Charles Denson

The New York State Marine Education Association presented the Herman Melville Literary Award to Charles Denson at their annual conference. “NYSMEA is pleased to recognize Charles Denson’s contributions to marine education through the Coney Island History Project,” said Dr. Meghan Marrero, President of NYSMEA. “His books, audio walking tours, and other works are important and timely. The NYSMEA Herman Melville Literary Award is a well-deserved honor.”

The award is presented to a member or non-member who has made a major contribution to the world of maritime literature and/or art. Mr. Denson has documented the Coney Island Creek for over 40 years and is working on a book and film about the waterway. In the photo above, he is at the award ceremony with Dr. Merryl Kafka, NYSMEA board member and co-founder of the Rachel Carson HS of Coastal Studies in Coney Island.

“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.” Last year, Charles Denson and the Coney Island History Project received a grant from the Partnership for Parks to create CreekWalk, a self-guided walking tour brochure and a series of informational plaques installed on the creek side of Kaiser Park.

Coney Island Creek Self-Guided Tour

October 25th, 2013

The Storm by Charles Denson

This month, on the 1st anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Charles Denson’s “The Storm” is screening at the Brooklyn Art Council’s Scene:Brooklyn Film Series on a program with Sandy-themed documentaries on October 29. On the West Coast, the film will be shown October 26 at the Berkeley Video and Film Festival, where it won a Grand Festival Award.

Mr. Denson’s 20-minute documentary shows rare and dramatic footage of the storm coming ashore on the evening of October 29, 2012, as well as preparations for the storm, the surge at Coney Island and Sea Gate, and the storm’s aftermath. It begins with footage of Hurricane Donna striking Coney Island shot by his mother in 1960. Mr. Denson rode out Sandy in Sea Gate, where his apartment and car were destroyed by the storm surge.

“I thought, ‘nobody’s filming this. I’ve got to record this,'” Denson said in an interview in the Brooklyn Paper when the film premiered at last month’s Coney Island Film Festival. “I realized, it’s very different when you actually experience something and put your life on the line to record something,” Denson said.

Scene Brooklyn 2013

Tuesday, October 29: From the Floodlines, BAC’s Scene: Brooklyn Film Series Venue: Galapagos Art Space, 16 Main Street, DUMBO Doors Open at 7pm, Screening 8pm – 9:40pm –This year’s BAC film series runs from October 25-October 29 and features films and media art inspired by or relating to Sandy and its aftermath. –Tickets are $10. Info here. Saturday, October 26: Berkeley Video and Film Festival Venue: East Bay Media Center, 1939 Addison St, Berkeley Arts District Screening at 5:50pm –Ticket info here.

The Storm by Charles Denson

September 27th, 2013

Coney Island History Project Walking Tour

The Coney Island History Project’s exhibit center season is from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day, but we continue to offer walking tours 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 CIHP’s Oral History Archive, and other primary sources.Through the end of October, Coney Island History Project Walking Tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 pm by advance reservation only. Beginning in November tours start an hour earlier, at 1pm, and are also by advance reservation. The 1-1/2 hour tour is wheelchair accessible.

All tours are weather permitting. If a tour is cancelled due to the weather forecast, ticket orders will be refunded. Advance purchase of tickets via our online reservation site is required for the fall and winter series. If you have a question or you would like to schedule a private tour or group visit, please email coneyislandhistory@gmail.com.

Coney Island History Project

September 24th, 2013

Coney Island Dune

Remember the dunes that were created by the US Army Corps of Engineers on West 15th Street after Sandy? “Coney Island Dune: Leaving Sandy Behind” by Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson is a lyrical look at the temporary sand dunes. The sand was cleaned and then returned to the beach by the Parks Department after having been collected from the streets where it had been swept by the storm. You can see the film on Denson’s Coneyologist channel on YouTube. Also on view are “Requiem for the Astrotower,” “Woody Guthrie’s 100th Birthday, Celebrated at Coney Island” and “Secrets of the Universe,” a short that premiered at the 2010 Coney Island Film Festival.

September 16th, 2013

The Storm by Charles Denson

Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson rode out Superstorm Sandy in Sea Gate, where his apartment and car were destroyed by the storm surge. On Sunday, September 22, his documentary “The Storm” is premiering at the Coney Island Film Festival. The 20-minute film shows rare and dramatic footage of the storm coming ashore on the evening of October 29, 2012, as well as preparations for the storm, the surge at Coney Island and Sea Gate, and the storm’s aftermath.

“The Storm” is part of Program 16, featuring several Coney Island-themed films, at 6pm. Tickets are $7. Advance ticket purchase is recommended. The screening venue is Sideshows by the Seashore at Coney Island USA, 1208 Surf Avenue, ground floor.

On September 22, prior to the film screening, the Coney Island History Project exhibit center will be open special hours, from 3-5pm. View historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films of Coney Island’s colorful past. The exhibit center is located on West 12th Street at the entrance to Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. Admission is free of charge.

August 21st, 2013

Jimmy McCullough

When Jimmy McCullough visited the History Project to sit for an interview a few years back, I felt that I was in the presence of Coney royalty. He was a man of few words, quiet and hardworking and, like most of the Coney old-timers, someone who rarely left his business during the season. Jimmy was related to three of Coney’s pioneer families: the Tilyous, Stubbmanns, and McCulloughs. When the McCullough’s Kiddie Park lease was not renewed by Thor Equities last year, the McCullough’s little park on the Bowery was forced to close, becoming another one of Thor’s vacant lots in the heart of Coney Island. 2013 is the first year since 1862 that there has not been a Tilyou descendant operating in Coney Island.

Jimmy and his family operated numerous small amusement parks and carousels in Coney Island, including the B&B Carousell, which was purchased by the City in 2006 and returned to Coney’s Boardwalk earlier this year. Jimmy was a man of many talents who could build or fix anything mechanical and he knew the amusement business inside and out. He was a friend of the Coney Island History Project and will be sorely missed by all those who knew him and worked with him. His death brings a close to a golden age of Coney Island History –Charles Denson

Charles Denson’s interview with Jimmy McCullough is part of the Coney Island History Project’s Oral History Archive and may be listened to online here.

Services for Jimmy McCullough will be held this week. The family will receive friends at William E. Law Funeral Home, 1 Jerusalem Ave, Massapequa, NY on Thursday, August 22, 7-9PM and Friday, August 23, 2-4:30PM and 7-9PM. The funeral will be on Saturday, August 24, at 10AM at Maria Regina R.C. Church, 3945 Jerusalem Ave, Seaford, NY.

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