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. Emphasizing community involvement, the History Project teaches young people about local history and develops programs in conjunction with local schools, museums, senior centers, and other organizations.
The History Project's public programs began in 2005 with the opening of the Coney Island Hall of Fame, an exhibit that honors influential figures in history, and Coney Island Voices, an oral history archive that preserves the stories and memories of people who visited or lived and worked in Brooklyn's famous playground. In 2006 we presented Coney Island Dreamers, an exhibit of banners from the Coney Island Hall of Fame and documentary photographs of Coney Island at the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza. We also continued our local history learning programs with students at Mark Twain Junior High School, the Global Studies School and Brooklyn College.
In 2007, we presented slide talks at the American Museum of Folk Art and Brooklyn College, and inaugurated our public exhibition center under the Cyclone roller coaster in Coney Island. “Land Grab: A History of Coney Island Development,” “Woody Guthrie’s Coney Island Years,” “The Astroland Archives Photography Exhibit,” “Coney Island Icons,” and “Luna Park Revisited” were among the exhibits at the Coney Island History Project's exhibition center during its first four years.
In 2011, the Coney Island History Project moved to our current home on West 12th Street beside the Wonder Wheel at the invitation of the Vourderis family, owners of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. Featured exhibits at the new space have included “The Dreamland Fire Centennial,” “Coney Island Bathhouses: A Lost Culture,” and the first solo show by local photographer Abe Feinstein, who has been documenting his neighborhood for more than 50 years.
2013 saw our recovery from Hurricane Sandy and the opening of the exhibits “The Curious Playland Arcade Art of Larry Millard” and "Wonder Wheel Dreams." We were invited to work with sixty students at PS 226 and an after-school program at PS 16 for which we produced a film based on their artwork and poetry. In August of 2013, the 3rd Annual History Day presented by Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and the Coney Island History Project was the inaugural event at the new Dreamland Plaza on West 12th Street.
During the last decade we’ve recorded the oral histories of many departed Coney luminaries whose stories would have been lost forever. The voices of Jack Ward, Jimmy McCullough, Matt Kennedy, Joe Rollino and others can be found in our Oral History Archive. Our unique walking tours continue to be offered year-round, attracting current and former New York residents as well as visitors from across the country and around the world.
In 2020, we are entering our most exciting year yet with our 16th Anniversary Season and the 100th Anniversary of the Wonder Wheel! Our exhibition center on West 12th Street below the Wonder Wheel offers an extensive program of exhibits, performances, walking tours, and special events from Memorial Day through Labor Day, as well as throughout the year.
The History Project was founded by Carol Hill Albert and Jerome Albert in honor of Dewey Albert, creator of Astroland Park. Executive director Charles Denson is a Coney Island native, a noted historian, and the author of the award-winning book Coney Island: Lost and Found. The project has received grants from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, New York City Councilman Mark Treyger, The Brooklyn Arts Council, Office of the Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, NYC & Company Foundation, New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, State of New York Empire Grant, New York State Council on the Arts, Johanna Favrot Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Con Edison, New York Community Trust, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, Partnerships for Parks and the Lily Auchincloss Foundation and the support of History Project co-founders Carol and Jerry Albert, former owners and operators of Astroland Park and the Cyclone roller coaster. Historians and members of the amusement community and the local neighborhood serve on our advisory board.