Coney Island Blog - News

Sea Lion Park Coney Island History Project Collection

Paul Boyton's Sea Lion Park in 1895. © Coney Island History Project Collection.

One hundred and twenty-five years ago today, on July 4, 1895, Paul Boyton opened Coney Island's and North America's first enclosed amusement park, Sea Lion Park, paving the way for Coney's other great parks, Steeplechase, Luna Park, and Dreamland. Erected on what would later become the original Luna Park, Boyton's park was a small collection of rides featuring the Shoot-the-Chutes water ride and the Flip-Flap looping coaster. Live sea lions entertained visitors. Visit our Oral History Archive to listen to an interview with Craig Boyton Dudley, great-grandson of Paul Boyton.

Sadly, the 125th anniversary year of Coney Island amusement parks and the 100th anniversary of the Wonder Wheel is the first time ever that Coney Island's world famous parks have been closed for the 4th of July holiday. Coney's historic parks, Steeplechase and Luna Park, remained open during World Wars I and II, as well as the 1918 flu pandemic. This year, Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and Luna Park, which traditionally open for the season on Palm Sunday, are temporarily closed due to statewide regulations in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

We're looking forward to the August 3rd publication of Charles Denson's book Coney Island's Wonder Wheel Park honoring the Wheel's 100th anniversary. Containing hundreds of never-before-seen photographs, plans, and ephemera, including rare images from the Vourderis family archive and the Coney Island History Project archive, nd interviews with the family of the original designer and builder of the Wonder Wheel, the book is part of Arcadia's Images of America series.

Coney Island History Project Oral History Archive

We're thrilled that the Coney Island History Project's Oral History Archive is featured in The New York Times virtual things to do "At Home" section!

You can still enjoy Coney Island this season thanks to the Coney Island History Project. Listen to New Yorkers recount their experiences at the treasured amusement park and beach. And if you have your own beloved memory of Coney Island, you can submit it to the project’s archive.

When: Anytime

Where: coneyislandhistory.org/tags/oral-history-archive

Sign up to schedule a an interview via phone, Skype or Zoom here.

posted Jun 15th, 2020 in News and tagged with Oral History Archive, oral history, Oral Histories,...

Today, June 7th, 2020, was to have been the Coney Island History Project and Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park's 9th Annual History Day celebration on the Boardwalk with performances by musicians and dancers paying tribute to Coney Island's immigrant heritage. Instead, we are living through history, with a worldwide pandemic, racial justice movement, and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Future historians will think about society as pre- and post-2020. In the meantime, please enjoy this video compilation of our 2019 History Day, with performances by Irina Roizin's Brighton Ballet Theater School of Russian Ballet, Haitian drummer Gaston "Bonga" Jean-Baptiste, Mariachi Real De Mexico de Ramon Ponce, Jenny Luna's songs in the Turkish and Rumeli traditions, and Julia Liu's New York Music and Dance Organization, with DJ Dan Kingman, Deno Vourderis, and Charles Denson.

posted Jun 7th, 2020 in News and tagged with Coney Island, Coney Island History Project, History Day,...

Happy 100th Birthday, Deno's Wonder Wheel from the Coney Island History Project! Join Charles Denson in this video sing-a-long of a 1920's song celebrating the joys of the Wonder Wheel to the tune of The Sidewalks of NY.  He discovered the song while researching Coney Island's Wonder Wheel Park and the lyrics are in the soon-to-be published book. We had planned to invite everyone to sing it at the now to be rescheduled Memorial Day Weekend Celebration. 

posted May 23rd, 2020 in News and tagged with

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day from the Coney Island History Project! Enjoy this photo collage of some of the mothers and grandmothers who visited our exhibition center in past seasons with their kids and grandkids.

posted May 10th, 2020 in News and tagged with

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 360 interviews in our online archive.

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

Coney Island History Project
Today we thank business owners and their employees who are staying open so that we can stay at home and stay safe. Among the Coney Island History Project's online archive of oral history interviews are a pharmacist, a restaurant chef, and a hardware store owner who are providing essential services to the Coney Island community during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Along with prescriptions, pharmacist Ho Cheung Li dispenses news and advice in English, Cantonese & Mandarin at J & R Pharmacy at 2302 Mermaid Avenue. "Serving the customer is the main point of being a pharmacist," said Li in his oral history, which we recorded in 2015. 
  
One-hundred-year-old Wilensky Hardware at 2126 Mermaid Avenue is an anchor of the community and remains open Monday through Saturday. Listen to our newly recorded oral history with Steven Feinstein, the owner of Coney Island's oldest family-owned business.  Wilensky's opened in 1920 as a paint store before branching out into specialty hardware. Pick up some paint and other supplies to work on home improvement projects during the stay at home order.

Among the Coney Island restaurants which remain open for take out and delivery are Footprints Cafe at 1521 Surf Avenue, which specializes in Caribbean cuisine. Listen to our 2015 interview with Chef Basil Jones, the originator of their famed Rasta Pasta.  For their temporary hours, visit Footprints website.
 

posted Apr 8th, 2020 in News and tagged with oral history, Footprints Cafe, Wilensky Hardware,...

Hyman Cleon supervised the construction of the Coney Island Boardwalk in 1922. Many thanks to his family for recently donating Cleon's personal photographs to the Coney Island History Project. This video highlights a selection of images from the collection. Subscribe to our Coneyologist channel and visit our Oral History Atchive and Collection pages for new online content created by the Coney Island History Project during these days of social distancing.

posted Apr 1st, 2020 in News and tagged with Hyman Cleon, Coney Island Boardwalk, 1920s,...

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. 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

Due to the COVID-19 emergency, the Coney Island History Project has postponed walking tours, group visits to our exhibition center, events at schools and senior centers, and in-person oral history interviews from March 14, 2020 until further notice. 

In order to maintain social distancing while continuing to engage with our community, our staff is recording oral histories from home via Skype and phone. 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 350 interviews in our online archive here

"In the past, phone interviews were done primarily with people who live outside of the New York metro area," said Charles Denson, executive director of the Coney Island History Project. Over our nonprofit organization's 16 year history, in-person oral history interviews have been conducted at our exhibition center and recording studio in Coney Island or at the interviewee's home or office in New York. "We started doing interviews via Skype in October and have recorded the stories of people who grew up in Coney Island and Bensonhurst and now live all over the world. We're pleased to be able to offer residents of the five boroughs and metro area the opportunity to share their stories with us via Skype chat or phone call."

Now more than ever we encourage you to browse the Coney Island History Project's website, which in addition to our Oral History Archive includes new additions to our Collection, and Coney News and Hall of Fame. Follow us on Facebook, TwitterInstagram and YouTube to learn about Coney Island's legendary and colorful past and the Coney Island community of today. 

We look forward to welcoming visitors to the Coney Island History Project exhibition center again soon. In the meantime, please stay safe and take care.

posted Mar 14th, 2020 in News and tagged with Coney Island, Coney Island History Project, oral history,...