Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive

WHAT'S NEW

Record your Coney Island Memories over the Phone or via Skype

During these days of social distancing, you're invited to share and preserve your Coney Island memories by recording an oral history via phone or Skype.

Our audio interviews are conducted in English, Russian, Chinese, Spanish and other languages with people who live or work - past or present - in Coney Island and adjacent Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods or have a special connection to the place.

Sign up for an appointment or listen to some of the more than 360 interviews in our online archive here.

Exhibit Center

Current Exhibit

Tours

Oral History

Collections

Ask Mr. Coney

Home

Featured Oral History Interviews

Candi Rafael

Coney Island carny kid and water race game operator on the Bowery

Marie Martorano

Bensonhurst native recalls riding Spook-A-Rama and playing Fascination in the 1970s

Florian Freitag

Visiting scholar whose research interests include theme park studies

Kathy Duke O'Melia

Girlhood memories of summering in a Coney Island bungalow in the 1950s

Santos Torres

Coney Island resident for 43 years, community gardener and musician

Ida Rosenblum Gambrell

Memories of Coney Island in the 1920s and '30s

Explore Our Collection

Hall of Fame

Inventors, performers, impresarios, and community leaders - these are among the many pioneers and visionaries whose creativity and ingenuity helped shape and define Coney Island over the past century. Each year, the Coney Island Hall of Fame pays tribute to a selected group of honorees. Their contributions are highlighted in an exhibit of colorful banners accompanied by illustrated text panels detailing their fascinating lives.

Featured Video

The Cleon Collection: Building the Boardwalk, 1922

Hyman Cleon supervised the construction of the Coney Island Boardwalk in 1922. Many thanks to his family for recently donating Cleon's personal photographs to the Coney Island History Project. This video highlights a selection of images from the collection. Subscribe to our Coneyologist...

Ask Mr. Coney Island

Dear Mr. Coney Island...
I've been doing a search to find images, pictures and films/video and audio showing the incredible Classic Three Rotating Ring Carousel that I remembered, as a young boy, that was housed in the huge indoor Steeplechase Park. As a young boy in the 1950's I had been amazed at the mechanical complexity of such an amazing machine with its 'Three Counter Rotating Ride Rings', Beautifully Hand Carved and Lovingly Painted Motion and Still Horses, and the Powerful music that came from the Huge Mechanical Full Orchestra and Organ/Calliope. I was born and raised in Brooklyn and Coney Island was a regular venue for our family entertainment. I'm hoping you'll be the one to help restore this childhood amazement to me! Regards, namaste
- David

Hello David,

That would be the El Dorado Carousel, now located at Toshimaen Amusement Park in Tokyo. This magnificent machine was carved by Hugo Hasse of Leipzig Germany in 1902. In 1910 it was moved to Coney Island and installed in a building Surf Avenue at West Fifth Street. The carousel survived the 1911 Dreamland Fire, blistered but intact. George Tilyou brought the El Dorado to...

Walking Tours

Coney Island Tours 

"A fascinating, accurate, unexpurgated look at the World's Playground"

Eventbrite - Coney Island History Project Walking Tour - September-October 2014

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.

Walking tours are led by History Project staff including historian Charles Denson or poet/teaching artist Amanda Deutch, who have over 100 years of family history in Coney Island! All tours begin with a private visit to the 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. The 1-1/2 hour tour includes a talk on the exhibits and objects on display.