scott fitlin

Scott Fitlin's gruff exterior often overshadowed his incredibly sharp mind. He was Coney to the core, the third generation of a family that operated on the Bowery for nearly a century, and a wealth of information about Coney Island history. He never backed down from a fight and never compromised when it came to the sound and style of his Eldorado Skooter ride. DJ Scotty was decadent, caring, funny as hell, and in the end, a lost soul. Here is a short excerpt from a series of longer conversations recorded over the years between Scott and History Project director Charles Denson.

Selections from longer interviews will soon be posted in our oral history archive.



posted Oct 22nd, 2010 in News and tagged with

 

CIHP Flickr photo of Jack & Marybeth Ward

Over the weekend, we were saddened to learn of the death of our friend Jack Ward, who died September 3 at the age of 66. Jack was an advisory board member of the Coney Island History Project and was also our Surf Avenue neighbor, having moved his law practice back to Coney Island in 2000. As the grandson of Coney pioneer William J. Ward, he managed Ward Realty, representing the last of the original land grant families owning property in Coney Island. In 2008, Jack and his wife, Mary Beth, accepted the Coney Island Hall of Fame Award for his grandfather at a ceremony at our exhibit center.

 

In a 2007 interview for the Coney Island History Project’s Oral History Archive, Jack Ward recounted his family’s long history in Coney Island. He begins with his great grandfather John Ward's purchase of beachfront property at 12th Street and Surf Avenue in 1879 and continues through his grandfather William J. Ward's participation in the development of the Half Moon Hotel and the Wonder Wheel. Jack’s grandfather, William J. Ward, was president of the Bank of Coney Island and a founding member of the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce. The Wards also built Coney's first boardwalk and operated Ward's Kiddie park for half a century. You can listen to the audio interview with CIHP Director Charles Denson here.

posted Sep 9th, 2010 in News and tagged with Jack Ward, Ward Family, obituary,...

Louis Beard
Louis Beard

During the summer and throughout the year, residents and visitors are invited to record their Coney Island memories for the History Project's oral history archive. Selected interviews are available on our website as part of our Coney Island Voices exhibit, a record of visitors and their stories. Notable additions to our archive include interviews with Coney Island resident Abe Feinstein, who has been photographing his neighborhood for 48 years, and Louis Beard, who maintains Coney Island's arcade games and enjoys coming here on his days off. We have also recorded interviews with contestants in the Sand Sculpting Contest, Mr Cyclone Contest and the Coney Island Talent Show.

Sydney Cozby
Sydney Cozby

Our youngest interviewee was 6-year-old Sydney Cozby, who visited the History Project with her mother before they went to the circus. Among her favorite things in Coney Island are watching fireworks from the beach at night, eating funnel cake (though it makes her teeth hurt a little) and going on the Dragon coaster. The archive is rich with stories of people who live, work or play in Coney Island. You can find and listen to their stories via our searchable online database, which is organized by theme, place, period and name.

If you have a story to share, stop by during exhibition center hours or make an appointment by emailing info@coneyislandhistory.org. Interviews are conducted throughout the year, both in Coney Island and off-site. The Coney Island History Project's exhibition center is located under the Cyclone Roller Coaster at 824 Surf Avenue just east of West 10th Street. We're open weekends from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day.Hours are 1 to 6 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays.Also open on Labor Day, FREE ADMISSION for One and ALL!

posted Aug 23rd, 2010 in News and tagged with

Did you grow up here? Do you remember going for your first spin on the B & B Carousell? Did you meet your true love in Coney Island? We want to hear your Coney Island stories and see your photos!

The Coney Island History Project announces a series of themed history weekends to pique your interest and jog your memory--from "Childhood Days" and "Romantic Coney Island" to "Thrills & Chills!" and "Under the Boardwalk & On the Beach." Check the schedule below and stop by for an interview with historian Charles Denson or History Project staff.

interview
Natalie Milbrodt Interviews Ron Rossi in CIHP recording studio
under the Cyclone roller coaster on the Cyclone's 83rd birthday

Throughout the summer, visitors are invited to record their Coney Island memories for the History Project's oral history archive. Selected interviews will be made available on our website as part of our Coney Island Voices exhibit, a record of visitors and their stories during the 2010 season. The CIHP's History Archive is rich with stories of people who lived, worked or played in Coney Island. Some of them still do: Williams Candy owner Peter Agrapides, game operator Caesar, and Luna Park visitor Mi Won Kim. You can find and listen to their stories via our searchable online database, which is organized by theme, place, period and interviewee.

Visitors are also encouraged to bring photos and memorabilia we can scan for the CIHP's online collection documenting Coney Island's past. Whoever brings in the best photo in each category will receive a set of historic postcards, vintage tickets, and a signed copy of Charles Denson's Wild Ride! A Coney Island Roller Coaster Family.

Interviews are available at the History Project's free public exhibition center on Surf Avenue under the Cyclone.The center is open on Saturday and Sunday, 1- 6pm, from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, as well as by appointment. You may schedule an interview in advance by emailing info@coneyislandhistory.org.

Themed History Weekends at the Coney Island History Project

July 10 & 11, Romantic Coney Island!... Did you meet your true love in Coney Island, go on your first date or fall in love here? We predict this is going to be a popular theme, so we'll reprise it on July 24 and 25!

July 17 & 18, Childhood Days... Carousel and kiddie ride memories, being tall enough to ride the Cyclone or Parachute Jump for the first time, your very first memory of Coney Island.

July 24 & 25, Romantic Coney Island! Did you meet your true love in Coney Island, go on your first date or fall in love here?

July 31 & Aug 1, Thrills & Chills!... Coney Island's rides, funhouses, games and arcades are world famous, but which ones are your personal favorites?

Aug 7 & 8, Neighborhood Coney Island... Did you grow up here? Have a summer job in the amusement district or work year round in the neighborhood?

Aug 14 & 15, The Taste of Coney Island... Are you a fan of Nathan's hot dogs, Mrs. Stahl's Knishes, Philip's salt water taffy? How about Ruby's Bar & Grille, Totonno's Pizza or Williams Candy?

Aug 21 & 22, Historic Coney Island... Memories, stories or photos of Coney's four NYC landmarks -- the Wonder Wheel, Cyclone, Parachute Jump, and Childs Restaurant on the Boardwalk--as well as vanished attraction like Steeplechase Park, the Thunderbolt and Stauch's Baths.

Aug 28 & 29, Under the Boardwalk and On the Beach... Favorite memories, Outings with family & friends, first trip to Coney Island--even if it's today--because memories are in the making.

posted Jul 9th, 2010 in News and tagged with
3239632389_c5dbc1abf5_m

On Saturday, June 26, the Coney Island History Project will celebrate the Cyclone Roller Coaster's 83nd birthday with a surprise birthday get-together. SSHHH! Don't tell the Cyclone, but we've invited friends and fans of the legendary roller coaster to join us from 1- 6pm at the Coney Island History Project's free public exhibition center under the Cyclone on Surf Avenue.

At 2 pm, we'll sing Happy Birthday to the Cyclone, blow out the candles, and cut the cake. Throughout the day, visitors are invited to share their Cyclone memories and photos with historian Charles Densonfor the CIHP's History Archive. The Cyclone was "born" on June 26, 1927 and is an official New York City landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

posted Jun 23rd, 2010 in Events and tagged with
luna_park_revisited
Join us on Memorial Day Weekend at the Coney Island History Project for the opening of our 2010 season and our featured exhibit "Luna Park Revisited." The History Project's FREE public exhibition center under the Cyclone Roller Coaster will be open from 1-6 pm on Saturday, May 29 through Monday, May 31, and subsequent weekends through Labor Day.
luna2
According to History Project Director Charles Denson, "The original Luna Park was a visual delight, a 'grotesquely delightful' storybook fantasyland filled with hundreds of towers, domes, spires, and minarets, all decorated with thousands of electric lights. It was known as the 'Electric Eden,' a city 'sketched in flame.' Our exhibit details the park's history, from opening day in 1903 to the dramatic fire that destroyed it forty years later." Rare archival photos, family snapshots, souvenir postcards and fun ephemera from Luna Park will be on display. A touch screen monitor will provide access to dozens more images.
The Coney Island History Project's exhibition center is located under the Cyclone Roller Coaster at 824 Surf Avenue just east of West 10th Street. We're open weekends from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. Hours are 1 to 6 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays. Also open on Memorial Day and Labor Day, FREE ADMISSION for One and ALL!
posted May 19th, 2010 in News and tagged with
CYCLONE-CHAISE
The Coney Island History Project will host an Open House on Saturday, May 22nd from 10 am to 5 pm to welcome Brooklyn Half Marathon participants and their family and friends to Coney Island. Everyone is invited to stop by to view historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films of Coney Island's colorful past. Among the treasures on display are a Steeplechase horse and Coney Island's oldest existing artifact, an 1823 Toll House sign from the days when the toll for a horse and rider to "the Island" was 9 cents. Free Admission for One and All!
On May 22nd only! Visitors are invited to try out the "Cyclone Lounger," a chair inspired by the Cyclone Roller Coaster and made from recycled Boardwalk ipe wood by Uhuru furniture designers of Brooklyn. After reading about the Cyclone chair in New York Magazine, NY Post and Daily News last week, we arranged to have the award-winning chaise lounge on display for Brooklyn Half Marathon Day in our exhibition center under the Cyclone. Designers Jason Horvath and Bill Hilgendorf will be on hand to talk about their "Coney Island Line" of furniture, sustainability and local craftsmanship. Charles Denson, Director of the Coney Island History Project, told the Brooklyn Paper: "This wood is not only part of the historic Boardwalk, but it's really good, straight-grain hardwood that should be repurposed. It's important that anything that can be recycled should be recycled."
posted May 17th, 2010 in News and tagged with
LUNA.2.8772
Antonio Zamperla and Valerio Ferrari, Coney Island, March 2010. Photo by Charles Denson
The Coney Island History Project is eagerly anticipating the grand opening of our new next-door neighbor, Zamperla’s Luna Park. History Project Director Charles Denson documented the beginning of the park’s construction and is creating an exhibit of the site’s 140-year transformation from sand dunes to Sea Beach Railroad land grant, to Feltmans Restaurant, to Astroland, and finally to the resurrected Luna Park. “The arrival of ride manufacturer Zamperla continues the tradition of Coney Island as a laboratory and testing ground for new amusements,” Denson said. “Less than a block away, on West 8th Street, were the amusement factories and workshops of William Mangels, Marcus Illions, the Pinto Brothers, L.A. Thompson, and numerous other foundries, blacksmiths, electricians, and machinists.

LUNA.2010.8784
The new Luna Park site, February 2010. Photo by Charles Denson
Although Zamperla will not be manufacturing rides in Coney Island, their presence means that Coney will have the best and newest attractions and will also be a showroom for new technology. It will be the best of both worlds, —Coney’s classic landmark Cyclone Roller Coaster right next to a modern resurrected Luna Park.”

posted Apr 15th, 2010 in News and tagged with

Join us to Celebrate Coney Island's & the Cyclone's Opening Day!

Exhibition Center

Palm Sunday is the traditional season opener for Coney Island's rides and attractions. The Coney Island History Project's public exhibition center under the Cyclone roller coaster will host an Open House on Sunday, March 28th from 12-3 pm to celebrate Coney Island's and the Cyclone's opening day of the 2010 season.

You're invited to view historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films of Coney Island's colorful past and preview selections from our 2010 exhibition season. Among the treasures on display is Coney Island's oldest existing artifact, an 1823 Toll House sign from the days when the toll for a horse and rider to "the Island" was 9 cents. Admission to the exhibition center is free of charge.

3783308308_fa10e465d0
Jimmy Prince, CIHP Distinguished Historian and Retired Proprietor of Coney Island's Major Market, Talking with Visitors from Tennessee. August 1, 2009. Photo © Coney Island History Project

Please stop by on March 28th and say hello to Charles Denson, CIHP Executive Director and author of Coney Island Lost and Found; Jimmy Prince, CIHP Distinguished Historian and longtime proprietor of Coney Island's Major Market; Stan Fox, Coney Island raconteur and veteran penny arcade operator; and staffers Tricia Vita, Amanda Deutch and Jeff Wilday.

The CIHP exhibition center will open for the 2010 season on Saturday, May 29th, Memorial Day Weekend with an exciting new exhibition about archaeology and historic sites in the neighborhood. The exhibition will tie in with our audio/video walking tours, which are downloadable for free via our website's Tours page. The "West End Boardwalk Tour" will make its debut, joining the currently available "Amusement Area: Past and Present" walking tour. This season's display will feature never-before-exhibited artifacts from Steeplechase Park, Feltman's, Astroland and more. We're pleased to announce that the Dreamland Bell, which was raised from the ocean floor by Gene Ritter's dive team in September after nearly 100 years under water will be back at CIHP to ring in the summer season!

3587768870_f6ce56abc5
Evelyn Lillias & family with souvenir photo taken at History Project's Memory Booth. The Queens resident grew up in the Marlboro Houses in Coney Island. May 25, 2009. Photo © Coney Island History Project

Located on Surf Avenue just east of West 10th Street, the Coney Island History Project's exhibition center is open free of charge on weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The centerpiece is an authentic Steeplechase horse from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park its name. Visitors are invited to record a video interview and take a free souvenir photo of their visit. For additional info, contact the History Project at info@coneyislandhistory.org or 718-265-2100.

posted Mar 21st, 2010 in Events and tagged with

Coney Island History Project Provides Research, Ride Plans to Zamperla USA

Central Amusement International president & CEO Valerio Ferrari, who is overseeing his company's ride development for the new Luna Park, recently consulted the Coney Island History Project. Mr. Ferrari requested historical information about the Astrotower to help with a possible resurrection of the iconic Coney attraction. We researched the tower's history and provided the original plans and archival photographs.

The images show the 1964 installation of the ride once known as the "Bagel-in-the-Sky" for its rotating glass-enclosed car that rides to the top of the tower. We hope someday to see the 270-foot remnant of Astroland become the centerpiece of Coney Island's new Luna Park.

The $1.7 million Astrotower was manufactured by the Swiss company Von Roll. It required a foundation of 1,100 tons of concrete and 13 tons of steel reinforcing bars. Like Astroland's other space-age themed rides, the tower was built specifically for the park. It did not come from the New York World's Fair. Von Roll was purchased by Doppelmayr Garaventa Group in 1996.

astrotower 1 medium
Installation of the Astrotower, 1964

posted Mar 6th, 2010 in News and tagged with