Coney Island Blog - Events

Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive

Ron Rossi, whose interview is part of the NEH on the Road's traveling Coney Island exhibit, being interviewed by Natalie Milbrodt for the Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive in 2010

We're proud to announce that selections from the Coney Island History Project's Oral History Archive will be part of the NEH on the Road exhibit "Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland" touring the U.S. from April 2017 through March 2022.

The NEH-funded exhibit, which first opened at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and traveled to the Brooklyn Museum and San Diego Museum of Art, was adapted from its original format to make it available to smaller venues in communities large and small across the country. This new traveling exhibition from NEH on the Road will explore America's playground as a place and as an idea, examining its persistent presence in the American imagination.

Among the Coney Island History Project interviews featured in the exhibit are Beth Allen, who was an incubator baby in Dr. Martin Couney's sideshow in Luna Park; Joseph Albanese, who recalls a time when police didn't allow bathing suits on the boardwalk even though bathing suits were very modest; and Ron Rossi and Ronald Ruiz, who talk about their experiences riding the Parachute Jump, the Cyclone and Steeplechase Horse Race at Steeplechase Park. Clips from these interviews and several others will be running on a loop at one of the listening stations in the exhibition.

Upcoming venues include the Brazos Valley Museum, Brazos, TX (April 6-May 25, 2017); Ypsilanti Public Library, Ypsilanti, MI (June 16-August 11, 2017) and the Sioux City Public Museum, Sioux City, IA (November 10, 2017-January 7, 2018). Pending destinations include Hagerstown, MD; Green Bay, WI; Reading, PA; Temple, TX; Park City, UT; Hastings, NE; Buford, GA; West Branch, IA; Baton Rouge, LA; Greenville, SC; and Shawnee, KS.

NEH on the Road is a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities designed to create wider national access to the ideas, themes, and stories explored in major grant-funded NEH exhibitions. The program is funded by the NEH and run by Mid-America Arts Alliance, a non-profit regional arts organization located in Kansas City. If you would like to bring the Coney Island exhibit to a venue near you, check the NEH on the Road website for details.

 

Coney Island History Project

You're invited to visit the Coney Island History Project's exhibition center on Coney's traditional Opening Day, Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017. View historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films of Coney Island's colorful past and take a free souvenir photo with 'Skully' or our original Steeplechase horse at our exhibition center. We'll be open 1pm-6pm. Admission is free of charge.

2017 marks the 13th anniversary of the Coney Island History Project! Since the History Project's inception in 2004 with a portable recording booth on the Boardwalk, followed by the opening of the Coney Island Hall of Fame in 2005 and the inaugural season of our exhibition center under the Cyclone in 2007 and moving to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park in 2011, we have proudly offered "Free Admission for One and All!" at our exhibits and special events. 

The Opening Day festivities start at 11:00AM on the Boardwalk with the 32nd Annual Blessing of the Rides at Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park. The late Pastor Debbe Santiago of Coney Island's Salt and Sea Mission originated the event with Denos D. Vourderis in 1985, who invited 300 children from the Mission to enjoy free rides and Easter baskets, a tradition that continues today. 

A ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by park owners Dennis and Steve Vourderis will be followed by free rides on the Wonder Wheel for the first 97 guests in celebration of the Wheel's 97th anniversary. At Luna Park, the first 100 on line at the Cyclone roller coaster will ride the roller coaster for free and egg cream samples will be given out.  Coney Island's 1920 Wonder Wheel and the 1927 Cyclone are official New York City landmarks.

At the Coney Island History Project, visitors may take free souvenir photos with the only original Steeplechase horse from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park (1897-1964) its name that remains in Coney Island and "Skully," a figure from Coney's classic Spookhouse and Spook-A-Rama dark rides. Among the treasures on display at the Coney Island History Project's exhibit center is Coney's oldest surviving artifact. The 1823 wooden Toll House Sign dates back to the days when the toll for a horse and rider to "the Island" was 5 cents!

Located on West 12th Street at the entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel, just a few steps off the Boardwalk, the Coney Island History Project is open free of charge on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day from 1:00-7:00PM. We will also be open on Easter Sunday, April 16, from 1:00-6:00PM. The Coney Island History Project is open year round for private group visits and our weekend walking tours as well as by appointment to record interviews with people who have memories of Coney Island for our Oral History Archive.

Coney Island History Project

The final section of the Coney Island CreekWalk has been completed and installed at Calvert Vaux Park. Conceived and produced by Charles Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project, this self-guided tour of Coney Island Creek was funded by a Capacity Fund Grant from Partnerships for Parks, a joint program of NYC Parks and City Parks Foundation.

The CreekWalk project, which began in 2012, includes informational aluminum signs and full-color brochures that describe the history, wildlife, and ecology of the creek at Kaiser Park and Calvert Vaux Park. "I've been researching and documenting Coney Island Creek since the 1960s," Denson said, "and we wanted to share this information with park visitors who may not be familiar with the fascinating history of these parks and the sights to be seen along the two trails where our signs have been placed." 

Among the points of interest are sand dunes, horseshoe crabs, wetlands, shipwrecks (the Yellow Submarine), ribbed mussels, fishing, birds, flowers, and the history of the two parks. The last sign on the trail, located at a scenic viewpoint at Calvert Vaux, describes the site of the historic British invasion of 1776 on Gravesend Bay that led to the Battle of Brooklyn. "Sometimes informational park signs use generic images as illustration, Denson said, "but all of the photos used in this tour were taken on the Coney Island Creek estuary. Coney Island Creek is a unique waterway with a compelling history and great ecological importance." The free brochures will be available at the Coney Island History Project during the summer or from Partnerships for Parks at park events.

The tour at Kaiser Park begins at Bayview Avenue and heads east along a paved path that follows the creek. The signs are installed on the guardrail. At Calvert Vaux Park the tour begins at the parking lot at Shore Parkway and heads west along the paved path that starts at the second kayak launch. The signs are installed on light poles along the path.

Special thanks to Martin Maher and Michael Super of NYC Parks; Pamela Pettyjohn of Coney Island Beautification Project; and Ted Enoch of the Catalyst Program of Partnerships for Parks.

Charles Denson at Coney Island Creek

Charles Denson with Coney Island CreekWalk sign at Calvert Vaux Park

posted Dec 12th, 2016 in Events and tagged with Coney Island Creek, Charles Denson, Kaiser Park,...

Astroland Rocket

Celebrate World Space Week this weekend - October 8, 9, and 10 - with a  walk inside Coney Island's famed Astroland Rocket. Located next to the landmark Wonder Wheel in Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, the historic Rocket is open free of charge to visitors during park hours, which are 12:00 PM through 6:00 PM on weekends and holidays through October.

"The Astroland Rocket at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park is a continuing symbol of America's successful space program in the 1960's and it is an inspiration today," says Deno John Vourderis, a third-generation member of the family who owns the park and gave the space-age icon a permanent home in Coney Island. "Visitors to our park are encouraged to ask questions and seek knowledge, The Vourderis family works hard to help ignite inquisitive young minds hoping to develop the geniuses of tomorrow. This is what helps make our world, our country, and our local communities great. Welcome to Coney Island, there's enough magic here for everybody."

One of the first and only surviving simulators constructed for amusement parks during the Space Race, the Rocket debuted in 1962 at Coney Island's space age-themed Astroland Park. Originally billed as the "Star Flyer," the Rocket was also called the “Cape Canaveral Satellite Jet” (TIME), “The Spaceship Auditorium” (Billboard), and the “Cannonball Adderley Rocket” in anticipation of Adderley dedicating the rocket for Astroland’s official opening on July 1, 1962.  The ride was rechristened the “Astroland Moon Rocket” in 1963. The Rocket, which has 26 seats, showed films of space voyages while the chassis “rocked” its viewers to outer space. 

After Astroland closed in 2008, park owners Carol and Jerry Albert donated the Rocket to the City of New York, which promised to make it a centerpiece of the new Coney Island. In 2014, the Coney Island History Project and Deno's Wonder Wheel Park teamed up to assume ownership of the Rocket and bring it home, a story chronicled in Charles Denson's film The Rocket Has Landed.. The 18-minute film tells the history of the Astroland Rocket and its journey back to Coney Island after being damaged by Hurricane Sandy while in storage on Staten Island

Astroland Rocket

"Outer space simulators have played a prominent role in Coney's amusement history,” says Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project and author of Coney Island: Lost and Found. “It began when Thompson and Dundy brought 'A Trip to the Moon' to Steeplechase Park in 1902 and culminated in 1962, at the height of the space race, with Astroland's Moon Rocket. The ride provided visitors with an exciting taste of intergalactic travel."

World Space Week is an international celebration of science and technology, and their contribution to the betterment of the human condition. The United Nations General Assembly declared in 1999 that World Space Week will be held each year from October 4-10. These dates commemorate the October 4, 1957 launch of the first human-made Earth satellite, Sputnik 1, which opened the way for space exploration and the October 10, 1967 signing of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activites of States in the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. 

Astroland Rocket

posted Oct 4th, 2016 in Events and tagged with Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, Astroland Rocket, Astroland,...

6th ANNUAL HISTORY DAY
S̶a̶t̶u̶r̶d̶a̶y̶ ̶A̶u̶g̶u̶s̶t̶ ̶6̶t̶h̶ ̶1̶p̶m̶-̶6̶p̶m̶
Sunday August 7th
At Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park
& The Coney Island History Project

DUE TO SATURDAY'S FORECAST, HISTORY DAY WILL BE HELD ON SUNDAY AUGUST 7. FREE EVENTS ALL DAY!

2:00 PM - 2016 Coney Island Hall of Fame Induction and Dedication Ceremony, Dreamland Plaza Stage, West 12th Street at the Boardwalk
-The honorees are the Coney Island Boardwalk, Deno's Wonder Wheel, Gargiulo's Restaurant and The Wizards of 8th Street. A plaque will be dedicated to the Albert family, founders of the Coney Island History Project and the Coney Island Hall of Fame 

1:00 PM - 6:00 PM: West 12 Street from the entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park to the Boardwalk:
-Display of banners and kiosks celebrating Coney Island history and past Hall of Fame honorees
-David Head will sign copies of his book on African-American inventor Granville T. Woods (1856-1910), who was inducted into the Coney Island Hall of Fame in 2008
-Amanda Deutch, poet and founder of Parachute Literary Arts, will have a Poetry Making Station featuring vintage typewriters. Letterpress posters with Walt Whitman and Muriel Rukeyser's Coney Island poems will be for sale
-Commendatore Aldo Mancusi, founder of the Enrico Caruso Museum of America, will play his hand-cranked Hofbauer street organ from the museum. Crank a tune and receive a certificate commemorating History Day!
-DJ Dan Kingman will play retro tunes and lead singalongs throughout the day
-Keep an eye out for our stiltwalker for free balloons and salt water taffy while supplies last

1:00 PM - 6:00 PM: At Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and the Coney Island History Project:
-Dress in 1920s garb and get one Free Ride on the Wonder Wheel! The Wheel opens at 12:00 PM
-Walk inside the iconic 1960s Astroland Rocket, which returned to Coney Island in 2014 and has a new home beside the Wonder Wheel. Adjacent to the Rocket, see a special display of historic figures and signage from the park's classic 1955 Spook-A-Rama dark ride
-At the Coney Island History Project, share and preserve your Coney Island memories by recording an interview for our Oral History Archive. View historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and film, and the special exhibit "The 50th Anniversary of Fred Trump's Demolition of the Steeplechase Pavilion"
-Take free souvenir photos with old-timey cutouts at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and with the Coney Island History Project's "Skully" from Coney's Spookhouse and an original Steeplechase horse from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park its name

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.wonderwheel.com 
For additional info, email events@coneyislandhistory.org

 

posted Jul 27th, 2016 in Events and tagged with Coney Island, history, festival,...

History Day

Celebrate historic Coney Island at the 6th Annual History Day at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, Coney Island's oldest amusement park, and the Coney Island History Project. The free event will be held from 1-6 PM on S̶a̶t̶u̶r̶d̶a̶y̶ ̶A̶u̶g̶u̶s̶t̶ ̶6̶t̶h̶. Sunday, August 7th.

At 2:00 PM, Charles Denson, historian and director of the Coney Island History Project, will present the 2016 Coney Island Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. The event will take place onstage at Dreamland Plaza, which is on West 12th Street at the Boardwalk as part of the History Day celebration.

Carol Hill Albert and Charles Denson

Carol Hill Albert and Charles Denson at dedication of the Coney Island History Project Memory Booth on the Boardwalk, 2005.

A plaque honoring Carol Hill Albert and the late Jerry Albert, who founded the Coney Island History Project and the Coney Island Hall of Fame, which was originally along West 10th Street, will be dedicated on History Day.  The Alberts, who were owners of Astroland Park and longtime operators of the Cyclone Roller Coaster, founded the History Project in 2004 in memory of Astroland co-founder Dewey Albert. Ms. Albert will represent the Albert family.

The Hall of Fame honors architectural wonders as well as historical figures who were pioneers and visionaries whose creativity and ingenuity helped shape and define Coney Island.

Coney Island History Project Coney Island Hall of Fame

This year’s Hall of Fame honorees in the architecture category are Coney Island’s landmark 1920 Wonder Wheel and the Riegelmann Boardwalk, which opened in 1923, and is currently under consideration for Scenic Landmark designation by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The Vourderis family, who have owned and operated the Wheel for more than three decades, will accept the plaque for the Wheel. Rob Burstein, President of the Coney-Boardwalk Alliance, will represent the Boardwalk.

Also being honored this year is Gargiulo's Restaurant, which opened in 1907, making it the oldest restaurant in Coney Island. The four Russo brothers, Nino, Ralph, Michael and Victor, bought the business from the Gargiulo family in 1965 and continued the fine Neapolitan tradition that made the establishment the classiest Coney Island destination for special events and fine meals. Gargiulo's is the last vestige of the many fine restaurants that were once sprinkled along the four blocks of Coney's "Little Italy" section. The Russo family will be represented by Nino Russo.

William F Mangels Factory Coney Island History Project

Workers at William F. Mangels shop on West 8th Street in Coney Island. The building is now the Department of Motor Vehicles. Photo © Coney Island History Project Collection.

The Coney Island Hall of Fame will also pay tribute to a group of historical figures who were an important and creative part of Coney Island that has completely disappeared. We call them “The Wizards of 8th Street.”

"Few people realize that for nearly a century Coney Island’s West 8th Street, between Surf Avenue and Neptune Avenue, served as the amusement manufacturing capital of the world,” said historian and Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson.

“This small stretch of West 8th Street was the home to the Illions Carousel factory, the Mangels amusement factory, and Pinto Brothers amusement factory as well as the Bonomo candy factory. Supporting roles were played by an assortment of independent tinsmiths, wood carvers, sign painters and banner painters, blacksmiths, electricians, welders, carpenters, machine shops, restaurant supply stores, and a lumberyard. Behind the establishments was a railroad freight yard to deliver raw materials and warehouses to store them. West 8th is where visionaries invented, perfected and manufactured some of the world’s most famous amusements. It was also a training ground for amusement designers who apprenticed there and went on to build their own amusement companies.”

Peluso Machine and Iron Works

Business card for West 8th Street's Peluso Machine and Iron Works, which made replacement parts for rides until 1966. Photo © Coney Island History Project Collection.

Joining the Coney Island Hall of Fame ceremony will be descendants of some of the prominent families who worked or lived on West 8th Street.

The Pinto Brothers, amusement ride manufacturers and one-time owners of the Cyclone Roller Coaster, are represented by the Kathryn Squitieri family.

The Kargman brothers Alex and Morris were talented old-world craftsman who could repair anything in Coney Island. They are represented by grandson Steve Kargman and granddaughter Calli Eve Kargman Bellitti.

Ride inventor and amusement manufacturer William F. Mangels emigrated from Germany in 1883 at age sixteen and by 1886 had a small machine shop in Coney Island where he made cast-iron targets for shooting galleries. A trio of rides manufactured by Mangels --the B&B Carousell and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park’s Fire Engine and Pony Cart rides- are still in operation in Coney Island. He is represented by great-granddaughter Lisa Mangels-Schaefer.

Machinist John Rea left Italy and began working at Peluso Machine and Iron Works in 1947. The shop was responsible for creating replacement parts for countless rides in Coney Island. He bought the business, and operated it until 1966. His son, John Rea Jr., who was a Coney Island sign painter as a teenager and is now an advertising professional and adjunct professor at the School of Visual Arts, will represent the Rea family.

Joe Bonsignore

Joe Bonsignore sitting in his go kart car ride on Surf Ave. at West 8th Street. Photo © Coney Island History Project Collection.

Sicilian immigrant Joe Bonsignore came to Coney Island in 1907 as a young man and wound up owning or being a partner in Coney’s largest businesses. He bought the L.A. Thompson Scenic railway and Stauch’s Baths. Joe also brought the Bobsled ride from the 1939-40 World’s Fair and moved it to Coney Island. His headquarters was on West 8th Street below the Thompson coaster. Joe’s son John raised his family in a home below the coaster and later bought and operated Silver’s Baths. Joe owned much of the property around West 8th Street but lost it to urban renewal in the 1950s. Charles Denson tells the Bonsignore family story in his book Wild Ride! A Coney Island Roller Coaster Family. The Bonsignore family will accept the plaque

The following activities are FREE throughout the day on History Day, from 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM:

On West 12th Street from the Coney Island History Project to the Boardwalk

A display of kiosks emblazoned with colorful banners of past Coney Island Hall of Fame honorees including George C. Tilyou, founder of Steeplechase Park; Dr. Martin Couney, inventor of the baby incubator; Marcus C. Illions, developer of the Coney Island style of carousel carving; and Lady Deborah Moody, who founded the town of Gravesend in 1645, becoming the first female landowner in the new world.

David Head Coney Island Hall of Fame Granville T Woods

David Head accepting plaque honoring Granville T. Woods at 2008 Coney Island Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Photo © Coney Island History Project Collection.

David Head will sign copies of his book on African-American inventor Granville T. Woods (1856-1910), who was inducted into the Coney Island Hall of Fame in 2008. Among Woods' patents was one for the world's first electric roller coaster, which was located in Coney Island more than a century ago. Mr. Head, a retired New York City transit worker and former chairman of the Black History Committee for TWU Local 100, was instrumental in having a Coney Island street across from Stillwell Avenue Terminal renamed "Granville T. Woods Way."

Parachute Literary Arts Poetry Making Station

Parachute Literary Arts Poetry Making Station at 2015 It's My Estuary Day at Coney Island Creek. Photo © Amanda Deutch

Amanda Deutch, poet and founder of Parachute Literary Arts, will have a Poetry Making Station featuring vintage typewriters. Letterpress posters with Walt Whitman and Muriel Rukeyser's Coney Island poems will be for sale. Parachute is a community-based literary organization in Coney Island that creates site specific readings, writing workshops and poetry libraries.

Commendatore Aldo Mancusi, founder of the Enrico Caruso Museum of America, will play his hand-cranked band organ. Mr. Mancusi is a member of the Carousel Organ Association of America (COAA) and Automatic Musical Instrument Collectors Association (AMICA). Crank a tune and receive a certificate commemorating History Day!

Aldo Mancusi History Day

Commendatore Aldo Mancusi performing at History Day. Photo © Coney Island History Project 

DJ Dan Kingman will play retro tunes and lead singalongs throughout the day.

Keep an eye out for our stiltwalker for free balloons and salt water taffy while supplies last.

At Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and the Coney Island History Project

Dress in 1920s garb and get one Free Ride on the Wonder Wheel! The Wonder Wheel opens at 12:00 PM.

Walk inside the iconic 1960s Astroland Rocket, which returned to Coney Island in 2014 and has a new home beside the Wonder Wheel. Adjacent to the Rocket, see a special display of historic figures and signage from the park’s classic 1955 Spook-A-Rama dark ride.

Spook-A-Rama Deno's Wonder Wheel Park          

At the Coney Island History Project, share and preserve your Coney Island memories by recording an interview for our Oral History Archive. View historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and film, and the special exhibit “The 50th Anniversary of Fred Trump’s Demolition of the Steeplechase Pavilion.”

Take free souvenir photos with old-timey cutouts at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and with the Coney Island History Project's “Skully” from Coney’s Spookhouse and an original Steeplechase horse from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park its name.

History Day Deno's Wonder Wheel Park

posted Jul 25th, 2016 in Events and tagged with History Day, Coney Island, Deno's Wonder Wheel Park,...

"50th Anniversary of Fred Trump's Demolition of Steeplechase Pavilion" Opens May 28

On September 21, 1966, real estate developer Fred Trump threw a demolition party at Steeplechase Park’s Pavilion of Fun, exactly two years after Coney Island’s legendary amusement park had closed.  While the champagne flowed and bikinied models posed for photos, Trump invited guests to hurl bricks through the stained glass Funny Face, the symbol of Steeplechase.

Opening May 28, 2016, the Coney Island History Project’s new exhibit, "The 50th Anniversary of Fred Trump's Demolition of the Steeplechase Pavilion," examines in photos, ephemera, and oral history, the importance of the pavilion and the memories of local personalities who dealt with Trump before and after the tragic demolition of a Coney Island landmark. History Project director Charles Denson interviewed many of the players involved in the loss of Steeplechase and the exhibit reveals many little known facts about Fred Trump’s history in Coney Island . Here are the top ten:

1. The Albert family of Astroland Park made an offer to buy Steeplechase but Marie Tilyou turned them down. Irving Rosenthal of Palisades Park also tried unsuccessfully to buy Steeplechase. Tilyou didn’t want to sell to an amusement operator and chose instead to sell to Fred Trump, who planned to build high rise apartments.

Astroland seeks to buy Tilyou's - Coney Island History Project Collection

News article from Coney Island History Project Collection

2. Fred Trump’s 19 year old son Donald was present with his father and Steeplechase Park owner Marie Tilyou at the signing of the sales contract for the park.

3. Fred Trump not only bought Steeplechase Park, he had also owned the old Luna Park site and the Velodrome site. He lost both in 1955 due to his blacklisting by the federal government

Vacant Luna Park Site - Coney Island History Project Collection

Vacant Luna Park site. Coney Island History Project Collection

4. Fred Trump hired the builder of Coney Island Creek’s Yellow Submarine to demolish the Parachute Jump in 1966 but reneged when the $10,000 price was too high.

5. Fred Trump offered to demolish the Parachute Jump for free in 1991, even when it was a landmark and he no longer had a financial interest in it.

6. Fred Trump was largely responsible for relocating poor families from the site of Trump Village, which was built in 1964, to the dilapidated summer bungalow colonies of Coney’s West End, creating a poverty pocket that led to the decline of Coney Island. He also profited by collecting fees for the relocations.

Bungalow Colony - Coney Island History Project Collection

Bungalow colony in Coney's West End. Coney Island History Project Collection

7. Fred Trump was fined for illegal filling of Coney Island Creek in relation to a concrete mixing facility.

8. Fred Trump placed an unusual amusement in the Steeplechase Pavilion in the months before he demolished it, an animal husbandry exhibit that was a satellite attraction of Murray Zaret's Surf Avenue Animal Nursery.

Murray Zaret's Pet Festival and Animal Husbandry Exhibit - Coney Island History Project Collection

Promotional poster for Murray Zaret's Pet Festival. Coney Island History Project Collection

9. Fred Trump, who was known as a shrewd businessman, finally met his match in Coney Island when he was outsmarted by a long-time Coney Island operator and then tried to hire him.

10. In 2009, the City’s Economic Development Corporation fulfilled Fred Trump’s dream by rezoning the western half of the Steeplechase site, which is now the MCU parking lot, for high rise apartments.

Demolished Steeplechase Pavilion Coney Island History Project exhibit. Photo by James Onorato

Demolished Steeplechase Pavilion. Photo by James Onorato. Coney Island History Project Collection

"The 50th Anniversary of Fred Trump's Demolition of the Steeplechase Pavilion" is on view at the Coney Island History Project's exhibition center from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. New hours are 1:00 PM till 7:00 PM. Admission is free of charge. We're 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 of Coney Island's colorful past. Among the treasures on display is Coney Island's oldest surviving artifact, the 1823 Toll House sign, which dates back to the days when the toll for a horse and rider to “the Island” was 5 cents! You're invited to take a free souvenir photo with Coney Island's only original Steeplechase horse from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park its name.

The Coney Island History Project was founded in 2004 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.

 

Steeplechase Pavilion Coney Island History Project

The Coney Island History Project's first special exhibit of the 2016 season, opening on Memorial Day Weekend, will be "The 50th Anniversary of Fred Trump's Demolition of the Steeplechase Pavilion." A half century ago Coney's most beautiful and imposing structure was demolished by developer Fred Trump, Donald Trump's father. This exhibit examines in photos, ephemera, and oral history, the importance of the pavilion and the memories of local personalities who dealt with Trump before and after the tragic demolition of a Coney Island landmark. During the last decade History Project director Charles Denson interviewed many of the players involved in the loss of Steeplechase and the exhibit reveals many little known facts.

Fred Trump had a long lasting effect on Coney Island that goes way beyond the loss of the Pavilion. His racist tenant relocation tactics at the Trump Village development site destroyed the lives of many poor families who were moved to the dilapidated bungalows of Coney's West End community. None of Trump's Coney Island projects were without scandal or controversy. This exhibit covers them all.

Located on West 12th Street at the entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, the Coney Island History Project is just a few steps off the Boardwalk. View historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films of Coney Island's colorful past.

Among the treasures on display is Coney Island's oldest surviving artifact, the 1823 Toll House sign which dates back to the days when the toll for a horse and rider to "the Island" was 5 cents! Today, the 193-year-old sign is often described as Coney Island's "first admission ticket."

Visitors to the Coney Island History Project are also invited to take free souvenir photos with an original Steeplechase horse from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park its name and "Skully," a giant skull from Coney's Spookhouse and Spook-A-Rama.

The History Project's exhibition center season is from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. New hours are 1:00 PM till 7:00 PM. Admission is free of charge. 

Join our unique walking tours based on Charles Denson's award-winning book Coney Island: Lost and Found, the interviews from CIHP's Oral History Archive, and other primary sources. Visit our online reservation site to see the walking tour schedule and purchase advance tickets online or book a group tour. 

Coney Island History Project

 

posted May 11th, 2016 in Events and tagged with Steeplechase Pavilion, demolition, Fred Trump,...

On Thursday, May 26, Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson will give a slide talk called "Immigrants Who Made Coney Island Famous" at the Coney Island Library, 1901 Mermaid Avenue at West 19th Street. The talk begins at 6:30pm and is free to the public.

"My talk tells the story of several immigrant families who started small in Coney Island and then went on to become enormously successful due to hard work and perseverance," says Mr. Denson. "Immigrants like Nathan Handwerker of Nathan's Famous and Denos Vourderis of the Wonder Wheel started with nothing, built successful businesses, and helped to shape Coney Island. Immigrant artisans Marcus Illions and William Mangels brought craftsmanship and artistic experience from their native countries and built factories in Coney Island that produced great works of folk art in the form of carousels and other amusements. Recent immigrants continue to play an important role in the community." 

posted May 11th, 2016 in Events and tagged with Coney Island, history, immigrants,...

May 14: It's My Estuary Day at Coney Island Creek in Kaiser Park

You're invited to It's My Estuary Day on Saturday, May 14, from 8:00AM-3:00PM, a day of service, learning and celebration along Coney Island Creek in Kaiser Park! The free event will include a coastal clean-up, tables representing environmental organizations, demonstrations of water chemistry techniques, oyster monitoring projects, seining, underwater robotics, diving demonstrations, and talks by ecologists and scientists. 

Stop by the Coney Island History Project's table to learn about our free programs and pick up a copy of the new Coney Island CreekWalk booklet produced by the History Project for Partnerships for Parks. We'll have bilingual interviewers in attendance to record your stories about the neighborhood and the Creek for our Oral History Archive.

My Estuary Day

Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson will give a talk on Coney Creek at It's My Estuary Day. Visitors may also take a self-guided walking tour by following the markers created for the Coney Island CreekWalk in 2012 by the History Project with the support of Partnerships for Parks. 

Featuring over 40 partner organizations, this free event is organized by the Cultural Research Divers, BMSEA (Brooklyn Marine STEM Education Alliance), and NYSMEA (NY State Marine Education Association), and hosted by Making Waves, a coalition of stewards caring for Coney Island Creek and Kaiser Park. 

Join us at Coney Island Creek!

posted May 2nd, 2016 in Events and tagged with It's My Estuary Day, Estuary Day, Kaiser Park,...