Coney Island Blog - Events

Coney Island History Project at Archives Field Day

Archivists came together at the 92nd St Y for the first-ever Archives Field Day on March 22nd. The event was sponsored by the Archivists Roundtable of Metropolitan New York. Visitors were invited to solve a series of questions using primary sources from the National Archives, NY-Historical Society, Girl Scouts USA, Coney Island History Project and other organizations. This year's theme was Sports and Leisure.

Each puzzle solved earned visitors a stamp in their Archives Field Day Passport and a chance to win prizes, including ride passes for Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. For more photos, visit our flickr set. In 2008, the Archivists Roundtable of Metropolitan New York honored the Coney Island History Project with the ARTS Award for Innovative Use of Archives.

On the Beach, Coney Island. 1934

Coney Island residents and friends are cordially invited to celebrate Black History Month with us in Coney Island on February 17th. The Coney Island History Project and Urban Neighborhood Services are hosting a slideshow presentation by Charles Denson followed by a panel discussion with long-time community members. Titled "The History of Coney Island's West End and the Presence and Contributions of African Americans in Coney Island from the 1600s to the Present," the slideshow will feature never-before-seen images from Charles Denson's archive and photos that he took in the 1970s.

U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Coney Island's first African American Congressman, will be a special guest. The event is sponsored by City Councilman Mark Treyger, State Senator Diane Savino, State Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny, Emblem Health and the Alliance for Coney Island.

Dinner will be served after the presentation.

WHEN: Monday, February 17, 4-6PM

WHERE: PS 329, 2929 West 30th Street, Coney Island

Coney Island, West End 1974

"I am personally excited to work with Charles Denson to bring this very important event to the residents of Coney Island," said Mathylde Frontus, founder of Urban Neighborhood Services, a community-based non-profit founded in 2004 that offers supportive programming on topics such as health and wellness, academic achievement, and other relevant subjects. "African Americans have a long and rich history of contributing to the vibrancy and well-being of this peninsula and I believe that Charlie's slideshow combined with the first-hand accounts of long-time Coney Island residents will really elucidate this all the more."

"The West End of Coney Island is a vibrant and resilient community that's survived many challenges over the last few decades," said Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson. "I grew up there and documented the wave of urban renewal in the 1960s and 1970s that transformed our community and changed the lives of its residents. This slide show will tell the story of the area going back to 1600s."

Black History Month, Coney Island

Please share this event flyer with your friends and neighbors. All are welcome to celebrate Black History Month with us in Coney Island on February 17th.

Black History Month, Coney Island
posted Feb 12th, 2014 in Events and tagged with Black History Month, Charles Denson, Coney Island,...
The Storm by Charles Denson

This month, on the 1st anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Charles Denson's "The Storm" is screening at the Brooklyn Art Council's Scene:Brooklyn Film Series on a program with Sandy-themed documentaries on October 29. On the West Coast, the film will be shown October 26 at the Berkeley Video and Film Festival, where it won a Grand Festival Award.

Mr. Denson's 20-minute documentary shows rare and dramatic footage of the storm coming ashore on the evening of October 29, 2012, as well as preparations for the storm, the surge at Coney Island and Sea Gate, and the storm's aftermath. It begins with footage of Hurricane Donna striking Coney Island shot by his mother in 1960. Mr. Denson rode out Sandy in Sea Gate, where his apartment and car were destroyed by the storm surge.

"I thought, 'nobody's filming this. I've got to record this,'" Denson said in an interview in the Brooklyn Paper when the film premiered at last month's Coney Island Film Festival. "I realized, it's very different when you actually experience something and put your life on the line to record something," Denson said.

Scene Brooklyn 2013

Tuesday, October 29: From the Floodlines, BAC's Scene: Brooklyn Film Series Venue: Galapagos Art Space, 16 Main Street, DUMBO Doors Open at 7pm, Screening 8pm - 9:40pm --This year's BAC film series runs from October 25-October 29 and features films and media art inspired by or relating to Sandy and its aftermath. --Tickets are $10. Info here. Saturday, October 26: Berkeley Video and Film Festival Venue: East Bay Media Center, 1939 Addison St, Berkeley Arts District Screening at 5:50pm --Ticket info here.

The Storm by Charles Denson

Coney Island History Project Walking Tour

The Coney Island History Project's exhibit center season is from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day, but we continue to offer walking tours year-round. Our unique 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.Through the end of October, Coney Island History Project Walking Tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 pm by advance reservation only. Beginning in November tours start an hour earlier, at 1pm, and are also by advance reservation. The 1-1/2 hour tour is wheelchair accessible. All tours are weather permitting. If a tour is cancelled due to the weather forecast, ticket orders will be refunded. Advance purchase of tickets via our online reservation site is required for the fall and winter series. If you have a question or you would like to schedule a private tour or group visit, please email

Coney Island History Project

posted Sep 27th, 2013 in Events and tagged with Coney Island, Coney Island History Project, ...

The Storm by Charles Denson

Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson rode out Superstorm Sandy in Sea Gate, where his apartment and car were destroyed by the storm surge. On Sunday, September 22, his documentary "The Storm" is premiering at the Coney Island Film Festival. The 20-minute film shows rare and dramatic footage of the storm coming ashore on the evening of October 29, 2012, as well as preparations for the storm, the surge at Coney Island and Sea Gate, and the storm's aftermath. "The Storm" is part of Program 16, featuring several Coney Island-themed films, at 6pm. Tickets are $7. Advance ticket purchase is recommended. The screening venue is Sideshows by the Seashore at Coney Island USA, 1208 Surf Avenue, ground floor. On September 22, prior to the film screening, the Coney Island History Project exhibit center will be open special hours, from 3-5pm. View historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films of Coney Island's colorful past. The exhibit center is located on West 12th Street at the entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. Admission is free of charge.

Organ Grinder Lola and Master Bob

A bevy of organ grinders from the Automatic Musical Instrument Collectors Association (AMICA) and the Carousel Organ Association of America (COAA) will join the History Day celebration at the Coney Island History Project and Deno's Wonder Wheel Park on Saturday, August 10, from 1pm - 6pm. The rally was curated by Bob Yorburg, a band organ restorer, magician and carousel carver, who performed at the History Project last season and restored Grandma's Predictions for Deno's Wonder Wheel Park.

"Hand cranked organs have appeared throughout the streets of New York and in Coney Island for nearly 100 years," says Yorburg, who explains that cranking the organ moves a bellows that provides air to sound the pipes. A roll of paper with holes punched in it creates the music that you hear. "You would often hear people singing along to the music. This form of entertainment predates all other forms of musical reproduction including radio, television and electronic media. Now, for one day only, we are bringing back these free performances with strolling and stationary organs."

Organ Grinder Lola and Master Bob, originally from Baden-Baden, Germany and now based in the Washington, DC area, will appear on the Dreamland Plaza stage on West 12th Street at 3pm. "We'll perform German Moritaten, 19th century street ballads of broken hearts, murder and mayhem," says Lola. "And, of course, the most famous Moritat of them all, 'Mackie Messer,' gangster rap from 1920s Berlin. Plus other fun sing-along songs in English, like the Ballad of Anne Boleyn! Great fun."

Ian Fraser, age 12, of Staten Island, is one of the youngest members of COAA and will perform on Saturday in Deno's Wonder Wheel Kiddie Park. He is the proud owner of a Celestina Organette, a small hand-cranked organ built in 1881 by the Mechanical Orguinette Co of New York. Ian has performed at band organ rallies at Knoebels, Quassy, Wurlitzer, and Olcott Beach.

Hofbauer Organ

Members of the New York chapter of AMICA performing on History Day include Vincent and Maryam Morgan on their Castlewood organ in Deno's Wonder Wheel Kiddie Park; Buzz Rosa and Barbara on their Hofbauer organ and Jerry and Cheryl Maler, also on a German Hofbauer organ, in front of the Coney Island History Project; and Bill and Rita Sharkey with their Jager & Brommer Organ, alternating with Bob Stuhmer and Walter Kehoe on Accordeon, at Deno's Wonder Wheel Gazebo on the Boardwalk.

"You will hear an art form that all but died a half a century ago," says Yorburg. "It is now experiencing a renaissance that will be shared for free by enthusiasts. These people have restored, built and bought organs that will be shared with the public." Throughout the day, spectators will have the chance to crank some of the organs and experience a thrill from days gone by.

history day

Live Music, Entertainment and History!

Celebrate Historic Coney Island Saturday August 10th from 1pm-6pm by attending the Third Annual HISTORY DAY presented by Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park & The Coney Island History Project, at the new W.12th Street Dreamland Pedestrian Plaza!

History Day festivities include live Ragtime and Dixieland music by the Banjo Rascals, old timey Organ Grinders playing hand cranked musical organs from around the world, Professor Phineas Feelgood's World of Magic, HumanToon/Street Sorcerer Kevin C Carr, and the always amazing Lady Circus! The performances are free to the public and will be held at the Coney Island History Project, the Pedestrian Plaza on 12th Street and in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Kiddie Park. This special event is free and open to the public

Mary Alice in 1920s Garb on Hisory Day at Deno's Wonder Wheel

Dress in 1920’s garb and get one free ride on the Wonder Wheel!

Test your Coney Island IQ at the Coney Island Trivia Contest at 2:45PM with historian and author Charles Denson. Prizes include ride passes for Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and souvenir postcards.

If you have a Coney Island story to share, come and record your memories for the History Project's Oral History Archive.

A new exhibit on "The History of Deno's Wonder Wheel: Three Generations" will open on History Day at the Coney Island History Project and continue through September. This exhibit portrays the history of Deno's Wonder Wheel and the Vourderis family who have owned and operated it for three generations. Also on History Day, there will be a presentation about mechanical street organs and the history of organ grinders by band organ builder and restorer Bob Yorburg at the History Project. Admission to the exhibit center is free of charge.

Spook-A-Rama Cyclops

Main Event Locations:

W. 12th Street Dreamland Pedestrian Plaza located between The History Project & The Boardwalk on 12th Street

Deno's Wonder Wheel Park 1025 Boardwalk at Denos D Vourderis Place (W. 12th St) Coney Island, Brooklyn 11224

The Coney Island History Project 3059 West 12th Street off the Boardwalk Coney Island, Brooklyn 11224

posted Jul 30th, 2013 in Events and tagged with 2013, August 10, Coney Island,...


Join us on July 1 August 27, for a free screening of "Little Fugitive" at Coney Island Flicks on the Beach. The 1953 movie by Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin was filmed in Coney Island on the beach, boardwalk and in the amusement parks, and will be introduced by the directors' daughter Mary Engel. This year is the 60th anniversary of the film, which won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

The Coney Island History Project is co-sponsoring the pre-show, which begins at 7:30PM with Coney Poetry presented by Amanda Deutch of PARACHUTE: The Coney Island Performance Festival and a Coney Island history and film trivia contest. Prizes include autographed copies of History Project Director Charles Denson's "Wild Ride: A Coney Island Roller Coaster Family," poetry broadsides from PARACHUTE, and postcards from the Coney Island History Project. Stop by CIHP's tent on the Boardwalk to say hello and learn about our free exhibit center on West 12th Street and oral history archive.

"Little Fugitive," which screens at dusk, stars 7-year-old Joey (Richie Andrusco), who runs away from home to hide out in Coney Island after being tricked into thinking he'd shot his older brother. With his Mom away and with only a few dollars in his pocket, he eats, plays games, rides the carousel and ponies, and collects bottles on the beach and boardwalk to finance more rides.

"Andrusco's chewable little face registers 30 shades of pluck, and codirector Morris Engel's ever-mobile camera casually captures perfection--in sunlight filtering through boardwalk slats, in the quiet descent of the Parachute Jump, in the endlessly repeating pratfalls of the batting cage," writes Eric Hynes in Time Out. "Little Fugitive" is fun for the whole family, and is a perfect time capsule of Coney in the early 50's.

Coney Island Flicks on the Beach are shown at dusk on a jumbo 40-foot screen on the beach at West 10th Street every Monday night through August 19. The free summer series is presented by Rooftop Films in partnership with the Alliance for Coney Island and NYC & Co. "Little Fugitive" is an Artists Public Domain/Cinema Conservancy release. For info about upcoming films, see the schedule in the Coney Island Fun Guide.

The Curious Playland Arcade Art Of Larry Millard

"The Curious Playland Arcade Art of Larry Millard" will be on view at the Coney Island History Project from May 25 through Labor Day 2013, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from 12 noon-6pm. The exhibit of photo documentation and several examples of original artwork being restored is open to the public free of charge. The History Project's exhibition center is located under Deno's Wonder Wheel Park's iconic entrance sign at 3059 West 12th Street, just a few steps off the Boardwalk.

The mural-covered interior of the Playland Arcade on Coney Island's Surf Avenue delighted patrons for many decades yet few knew the story behind the colorful artwork that covered every inch of the establishment. Playland closed in 1981 and the building stood empty until it was demolished in 2013. The Coney Island History Project's multi-year mission to save and document the unusual murals inside the Playland Building ended successfully on February 14 with the removal of several of Larry Millard's iconic artworks and the remaining letters from the Bowery entrance's neon sign hours before demolition.

Previously saved murals were displayed at the Coney Island History Project's exhibit center last year. We worked with Gateway Demolition to remove several of the murals just before demolition. Our previous efforts at preservation were hampered by trespassers, vandals, black mold, the untimely death of Playland's caretaker, Andy Badalamenti, as well as Superstorm Sandy, but finally the story of the artist who created them can be told. Playland Arcade

In the winter of 1957 a mysterious unemployed artist named Larry Millard showed up at the Playland Arcade on Surf Avenue looking for work. Forty-five-year-old Millard claimed to have been a cartoonist for the New York Daily News and offered his services as a sign painter. Playland owner Alex Elowitz hired him to paint some small lettered Skeeball signs. His lettering was perfect and he continued working at the arcade through the summer of 1958 painting large and colorful and murals on every inch of wall space.

Millard followed a daily routine, arriving early in the morning unshaven and smelling of alcohol, suffering from the shakes. He was given a couple of bucks for a bottle of Thunderbird wine that he bought at the liquor store across the street next to Mama Kirsh's restaurant. The drink steadied his hand, enabling him to paint.

Stanley Fox, who worked at the arcade owned by his brother, described Millard as "artsy-looking," with dark hair and a mustache, always wearing a Fedora and usually accompanied by his girlfriend, an African-American woman named Eunice. Millard would arrive daily with sketches to be approved by Elowitz. "My brother paid him by the day, maybe $25. Larry lived somewhere in Coney Island, although no one was sure where."

The Curious Playland Arcade Art of Larry Millard

Millard's Skeeball signs led to the complex cartoons he illustrated with puns and jokes: busty, leggy women with hapless boyfriends. Many of his murals were in the cartoon style of Lil' Abner creator Al Capp. The public loved his work and he continued painting Playland until every wall was filled. When Millard finished his murals at the Playland building he began painting outdoor signs around Coney Island, and murals at Stauch's and at the B&B Carousell.

Millard disappeared from Coney Island around 1960 and was never seen again. He left a mark much like native petroglyphs: deceivingly simple yet undecipherable and opaque. His work is mysterious and edgy, erotic and "cartoony." When you look past the inherent humor in his pieces it's possible that most of his sketches were sad self-portraits telling his life story: the portrait of a tortured soul who had bad luck with women. --- Charles Denson

Steeplechase Horse

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EXHIBITION CENTER...Opening Memorial Day Weekend for the 2011 season! The Coney Island History Project's  exhibition center at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park.  Located on West 12th Street, just off the Boardwalk, our public exhibition center is open from 12 noon - 6 pm on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays  from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. Admission is Free!

View historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera, folk art  and films of Coney Island's colorful past. This year's opening exhibition will commemorate the Dreamland Fire Centennial with historic images of Dreamland before and after the fire juxtaposed with the site as it is today. Our popular Steeplechase horse from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park its name will be on display again, along with a rare Mangels "Fairy Whip" car.

The exhibition center is open year-round by appointment for schools and groups. Send inquiries to

SUNDAY WALKING TOURS...The Coney Island History Project is pleased to announce walking tours of the historic landmarks and current attractions of the amusement district. Our tours are based on CIHP Director Charles Denson's award-winning book Coney Island: Lost and Found, the oral history interviews in our archive and other primary sources. Tours will be offered on Sundays at 12:15 pm from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend as well as to groups by advance reservation. Tickets are $20. Advance purchase of tickets through our event reservation website is recommended since tours are limited to 10-12 people. If a tour has not sold out, the remaining tickets will be available for cash purchase on the day of the tour when the History Project opens at 12 noon.

posted May 27th, 2011 in Events and tagged with