Coney Island Blog - Events

Mermaid Ave Then and Now

You're invited to join us on Zoom for "Mermaid Avenue, Then and Now," a virtual tour with historian Charles Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project, on February 23rd.

We'll look at how Coney Island's Mermaid Avenue shopping district, where most of the storefronts were in three-story brick buildings constructed in the 1920s, was transformed by a destructive urban renewal project launched in 1949. Today the "Avenue," as residents called it, is recovering but remains a shadow of its former self. Denson grew up a block from Mermaid Avenue and will show his photo documentation of the street as it changed during the 1960s and 1970s, and as it appears today. 

The Coney Island History Project also invites anyone with Mermaid Avenue stories to sign up to record an oral history about their experiences on Coney’s famous Avenue. Some of the oral histories in our archive about Mermaid Avenue’s mom and pop businesses founded by immigrants past and present are featured in Episode 4 of our Coney Island Stories podcast.

Charles Denson grew up in Coney Island and began documenting his neighborhood as a boy, a passion that continues to this day. He is the author of four books: Coney Island's Wonder Wheel Park; Wild Ride: A Coney Island Roller Coaster Family; Coney Island and Astroland; and Coney Island: Lost and Found, named 2002 New York Book of the Year by the New York Society Library. 

Tuesday, February 23 at 7:00 PM. FREE.
Advance registration is required. You will be sent the Zoom link two days before the event.

Register Here

 

 

This program is supported, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and New York City Councilman Mark Treyger.

posted Feb 11th, 2021 in Events and tagged with Mermaid Avenue, Then and Now, Virtual Tour,...

Coney Island Stories Podcast


Our new podcast produced from oral histories in the Coney Island History Project's archive, which previewed on our website, has been retitled Coney Island Stories and is now available wherever you get your podcasts. Download and subscribe on your favorite podcast app:

Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/coney-island-stories/id1546027462
Google Podcasts: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkcy5idXp6c3Byb3V0LmNvbS8...
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/5XW8dXUrBU2Vqg3rjKeJA7
Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/show/coney-island-stories  

Here are reviews from some of our first listeners!

"I loved the optimism, ambition and grit that comes through in their voices and stories."
"You get a real sense of the incredible history of Coney Island through stories and memories shared by a variety of guests. I was lucky enough to be born and raised in Brooklyn. The podcasts bring back great memories and introduce me to history in the making."
"You can peek into a part of Coney Island not visible by just visiting. Coney was (is) such a unique place - and the podcast shares and saves memories that would be otherwise lost."
"It’s a true slice of Coney life that is quickly disappearing. It helps to remind those of us who were around then that it was a glorious place to visit and imagine what could be!"

Six new episodes will debut in the coming months. Here's the trailer for the first four episodes...
 

posted Dec 28th, 2020 in Events and tagged with podcast, Coney Island, Coney Island Stories,...

Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive

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 375 interviews in our online archive.

posted May 1st, 2020 in Events and tagged with oral history, Oral History Archive

Book Coney Island's Wonder Wheel Park

We're thrilled to announce the upcoming publication of Charles Denson's book Coney Island's Wonder Wheel Park on August 3 (postponed from May 18).  This year the landmark Wonder Wheel celebrates its 100th birthday, and to mark the occasion the Coney Island History Project director and author of Coney Island: Lost and Found has written a new book to coincide with this historic event. While researching the fascinating history of the Wonder Wheel he was surprised to discover so much that was lost to history about the Wheel and its origins. "It was a joy to write," Denson said, "the Vourderis family, owners of Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, truly represent the essence of Coney Island and are incredible to work with."

Coney Island's Wonder Wheel Park is all primary source research, gleaned from numerous interviews with surviving members of all of the families involved in the design, construction, and operation of this venerable ride, from original concept in 1914, construction in 1920, and salvation by the Vourderis family who purchased and restored the ride in 1983. 

The theme of the book is immigrant initiative. Charles Hermann, the Wonder Wheel's designer was Romanian; original owner Herman Garms was German; and Denos Vourderis, who bought the ride in 1983, was Greek. The construction crew was made up of Italian, Irish, and Russian immigrants, who were given stock in the Wheel and made part owners. The book tells the story of a former eel fisherman and cheese maker teaming up with a machinist/building superintendent to finance and build a fantastic ride based on Leonardo da Vinci's 15th century sketch of a perpetual motion machine. The Wonder Wheel is now Coney Island's oldest continuously operating ride; a survivor of urban renewal, hurricanes, and fires; and an official New York City landmark. It has a perfect safety record.

Published by Arcadia's Images of America series, Coney Island's Wonder Wheel Park contains hundreds of never-before-seen photographs, plans, and ephemera, including rare images from the Vourderis family archive and the Coney Island History Project archive, and interviews with the family of the original designer and builder of the Wonder Wheel. The Coney Island History Project exhibition center had scheduled an accompanying Wonder Wheel exhibit curated by Charles Denson to open Memorial Day Weekend.  The exhibition center remains closed due to state executive order and our opening date has yet to be determined.

This blog post was updated on May 19, 2020 with information about the rescheduled book publication and postponement of the exhibition.

posted Mar 24th, 2020 in Events and tagged with Book, Wonder Wheel, Deno's Wonder Wheel Park,...

Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive

Share and preserve your memories by recording an oral history with the Coney Island History Project. We are recording audio interviews 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. For inspiration, listen to some of the oral histories in our online archive. Interviews are recorded year-round in-person or via phone or Skype. You may schedule an appointment via our website.

posted Sep 4th, 2019 in Events and tagged with Oral History Archive, oral history, Oral Histories,...


Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive

Summer always goes by too fast! With only four more weekends till Labor Day, the Coney Island History Project announces a series of themed history weekends at our exhibition center to pique your interest in sharing your Coney Island stories. For inspiration, listen to some of the oral histories in our online archive before you visit. You may also listen to excerpts from the History Project's oral history archive at the exhibition center via our new SoundStik audio handset. 

Interviews are recorded in person during exhibition center hours- Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays thru Labor Day, 1-7 PM - or by appointment year-round. We have recorded interviews in English, Russian, Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish, Turkish and Italian!

SCHEDULE AN ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW:

August 10 and 11, 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.

August 17 and 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.

August 24 and 25, Neighborhood Coney Island... Did you grow up or live here? Visit family or friends who live here? Have a summer job in the amusement area or work in the neighborhood?

August 31 and September 1-2, Romantic Coney Island! Did you meet your true love in Coney Island, go on your first date or fall in love here?

The Coney Island History Project is located at 3059 West 12th Street at the entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, just a few steps off the Boardwalk. View historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films, and this season's special exhibit "Salvation by the Sea." Admission is free of charge.

Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive
Listen to excerpts from the Coney Island History Project's oral history archive at the exhibition center via our new SoundStik audio handset.

Lead photo: Jiangxin Jin recording an oral history for the Coney Island History Project with Yi Xin Tong, an artist from China's Mount Lushan who has lived in Gravesend for six years. He describes Coney Island Creek as "the place that I can feel closest to home in New York."  Photo: Coney Island History Project

National Night Out

This Tuesday, August 6th, is National Night Out, an annual event that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie. Coney Island's 60th Precinct, PSA #1, and Transit District 34 are hosting this year's block party on our block - West 12th Street between Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk. Enjoy music, free food, bounce houses, vendors, giveaways and more from 5-8 PM. The Coney Island History Project will open our exhibition center for the event and give away souvenir buttons while supplies last. The 60th Precinct National Night Out is sponsored by Deno's Wonder Wheel and Investors Bank.

posted Aug 5th, 2019 in Events and tagged with National Night Out, Night Out New York, Night Out,...

Seaside Home

The Coney Island History Project's special exhibition for the 2019 season, opening on Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday, May 25th, is "Salvation by the Sea: Coney Island's 19th Century Fresh Air Cure and Immigrant Aid Societies."

During the late 1800s and early 1900s Coney Island served as a place of salvation for European immigrants fleeing poverty and persecution. Charitable Summer Seaside Homes for the poor, supported by the city's wealthy, provided impoverished immigrant mothers and children with a respite from steaming, disease-filled tenements.  
 
At the same time, Coney's expanding amusement business provided business opportunities for immigrants of small means. This exhibit explores a little-known era of Coney Island's history by examining the role that the beachfront played in saving lives and providing a livelihood for the waves of immigrants that fled their homelands to seek freedom and new lives in America. Our exhibit tells the story through photos, articles, maps, and oral history.  

Salvation by the Sea at the Coney Island History Project

2019 marks the 15th anniversary of the Coney Island History Project! Since the History Project's inception in 2004 with a portable recording booth on the Boardwalk and the inaugural season of our exhibition center in 2007, we have proudly offered "Free Admission for One and All!" at our exhibits and special events. Our exhibition center is open free of charge on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. We're located at 3059 West 12th Street, adjacent to the 12th Street entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, just a few steps off the Boardwalk.

View historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films of Coney Island's colorful past.  Share and preserve your Coney Island memories by recording an interview for our Oral History Archive. Take free souvenir photos with the iconic Spook-A-Rama Cyclops and Coney Island's only original Steeplechase horse, from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park its name. Among the rare treasures on display is Coney Island's oldest surviving artifact from the dawn of the "World's Playground." The 1823 Toll House sign in our collection dates back to the days when the toll for a horse and rider to "the Island" was 5 cents!

Jane's Walk NYC Coney Island

Missed our annual Immigrant Heritage Tour of Coney Island for Immigrant Heritage Week? The Coney Island History Project is pleased to offer this special walking tour free of charge on May 5th at 1PM as part of Jane's Walk NYC 2019! Organized by the Municipal Art Society of New York, the festival includes over 200 free guided walks and takes place the first weekend in May every year to coincide with urban activist Jane Jacobs' birthday.

Among the stops on the Immigrant Heritage Tour of Coney Island and the stories of struggle, success and achievement are Nathan's Famous, founded in 1916 by Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker; Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, where the landmark 1920 Wonder Wheel was purchased by Greek immigrant Denos D. Vourderis as a wedding ring for his wife Lula; and the B&B Carousell, created in 1919 by German and Russian immigrants and now Coney's last hand-carved wooden carousel. The tour will also highlight businesses operated by immigrants who have recorded their stories for the Coney Island History Project's Oral History Archive.

Tickets must be reserved in advance via the History Project's eventbrite page and reservations are limited to 2 per person as capacity is limited.  The tour starts in front of the Coney Island History Project, 3059 West 12th St (adjacent to the 12th Street entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park), Brooklyn NY 11224. The tour ends at the B&B Carousell, 1615 Riegelmann Boardwalk, Brooklyn, NY 11224

The walking tour takes 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes, depending on the size of the group. Walking tours are held rain or shine. We reserve the right to cancel tours in the event of potentially dangerous weather.

This program is supported, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York City Councilman Mark Treyger.

posted Apr 30th, 2019 in Events and tagged with Jane's Walk, Jane's Walk NYC, Jane Jacobs,...

History Day Deno's Wonder Wheel Park Coney Island History Project

Save the Date! Sunday, June 9th, 2019, from 2pm - 6pm

Eighth Annual History Day at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and the Coney Island History Project

Celebrating Coney Island's Immigrant Heritage!

Hosted by Deno John Vourderis, Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and 
Charles Denson, Coney Island History Project 
 
Enjoy Free Live Music, Entertainment and History, including performances by musicians and dancers representing the traditional culture of countries from which people have emigrated to Coney Island:

3:00 PM: Brighton Ballet Theater School of Russian Ballet - Local students from school founded by Irina Roizin perform classical ballet and Ukrainian folk dance

3:45PM: Gaston "Bonga" Jean-Baptiste - Master Haitian drummer

4:15PM: Jenny Luna: Songs in the Turkish and Rumeli traditions

4:30PM: New York Music and Dance Organization - Bensonhurst-based Chinese dance troupe founded by Julia Liu

5:30PM:  Mariachi Real de Mexico de Ramon Ponce - New York's premier mariachi

Plus DJ Dan Kingman, special guest artists and table top displays

The Opening Ceremony at 2pm will be followed by Free Live Entertainment from 3-6pm on the Boardwalk Stage in front of Deno's Wonder Wheel Park

History Day

"I love Coney Island," said Deno John Vourderis, a third generation member of the family that owns and operates the world famous Deno's Wonder Wheel. "We are what we have always been, a place where all people come to play. And my favorite part about working here is seeing people who half a world away are at war but in Coney Island stand next to each other in line, their children smiling at each other in mutual excitement before stepping into a ride together."

"For more than a century, Coney Island served as the true historic 'melting pot' for New York City's immigrant population," said Charles Denson, author of Coney Island: Lost and Found and director of the Coney Island History Project. "It remains a place of great diversity, where people of small means enjoy an affordable day of free recreation on the beach and Boardwalk. Coney Island continues to be a destination for immigrants, the place to assimilate with people of all nationalities. It's where they finally find true freedom and become Americans."

About Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park
Built in 1920, the NYC landmark Deno's Wonder Wheel turned 99 on Memorial Day and will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2020. Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park founder Denos D. Vourderis, the 8th of 22 children, immigrated to the United States at age 14 to pursue the American Dream. He was born in Greece in 1920, the same year as the Wonder Wheel that he would buy in 1983 as a wedding ring for his wife Lula, restore to its original state, and build his amusement park around. The park now features 21 rides as well as arcades, games, Famiglia Pizzeria and an old fashioned Sweet Shoppe, and proudly hosts the Coney Island History Project. It is owned and operated by Dennis and Steve Vourderis and their sons, the second and third generations of the Vourderis family. West 12th Street, between Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk, was co-named Denos D. Vourderis Place in 2001.

About the Coney Island History Project
Founded in 2004 by Carol Hill Albert and Jerome Albert in honor of Dewey Albert, creator of Astroland Park, the Coney Island History Project is a not-for-profit organization that aims to increase awareness of Coney Island's legendary past and to encourage appreciation of the Coney Island neighborhood of today. Admission is free of charge to our exhibition center located on West 12th Street at the entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. Hours are 1-7 PM on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. This season's special exhibit is "Salvation by the Sea: Coney Island's 19th Century Fresh Air Cure and Immigrant Aid Societies," curated by executive director Charles Denson. Our multilingual offerings include a brochure in 10 languages, English and Chinese language walking tours, and oral history interviews recorded in several languages.
 
Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and the Coney Island History Project
3059 West 12th Street, Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY 11224
D, F, N or Q train to Stillwell Terminal
Phone: 347-702-8553 (Coney Island History Project)
Phone: 718-372-2592 (Deno's Wonder Wheel Park)
http://www.coneyislandhistory.org
http://www.denoswonderwheel.com
events[AT]Coneyislandhistory[DOT]org

DCLA logo

The Coney Island History Project's programs are supported in part by public funds from the NYC Dept of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the NYC City Council, New York City Councilman Mark Treyger, and our members and contributors. 

 

posted Apr 23rd, 2019 in Events and tagged with Coney Island, History Day, Deno's Wonder Wheel Park,...