The damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy on the Coney Island History Project's West 12th Street exhibition center, and our determination to rebuild in time for the 2013 summer season, was recently covered by NY1 News in an interview with Project executive director Charles Denson. You can view the entire interview on the NY1 web site.

posted Dec 17th, 2012 in News and tagged with

Alvy West

Alvy West (born Alvin Weisfeld), a noted musician, long-time resident of Sea Gate and a familiar presence on the Coney Island boardwalk died on November 30, 2012 at the age of 97. He is survived by four children, John, Sara Jo, Barbara and Jim, three grandchildren and five great grandchildren. He was married to his late wife Kittie for over fifty years. Alvy West is the uncle of the late Jerome Albert, former owner of Astroland Park and co-founder of the Coney Island History Project. Coney Island residents were thrilled the year Alvy West volunteered himself and his band for one of the Cyclone's Opening Days.

Alvy was an accomplished alto sax player, composer, arranger and conductor of note who worked with some of the greats of the music industry including Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, and Anita O'Day and was the musical director for Andy Williams and other television shows. In his early years, he toured with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and then led his own combo, the Little Band, which a Billboard review said more than lived up to its advance praise when they played at the Hotel Edison’s Green Room: “The group’s new sound is built around the delicate tone of the maestro’s alto sax, which aside from the occasional solo flights, predominately weaves unison melodies with one or more of the other six guys in the band. The end product sound is full but far more distinctive than that put out by many full-size orks [orchestras].” Alvy's musical legacy is being carried out by his son Jim West, a noted jazz pianist.

A private funeral service for family was held Monday, December 3, 2012. The date and time for a memorial celebration of Alvy's life for family and friends will be announced at a future time.

posted Dec 3rd, 2012 in News and tagged with

Four feet of water from Hurricane Sandy surged into the Coney Island History Project, causing extensive damage to our exhibit center and office on 12th Street near the Boardwalk. Over the weekend, like our friends and neighbors in Coney Island, we began a major clean up effort. Artifacts and photographs that might be saved were hosed down with water. Walls had to be ripped out and desks, cabinets and display cases, already rusted and rotting from the salt water, were dragged to the curb as trash.

"Coney Island has been destroyed many times," said History Project director Charles Denson, who rode out the storm in Sea Gate, where his apartment flooded and his car floated away. "In the past it has burned to the ground and been ripped apart by storms.. And it has always recovered. We plan to be back better than ever."

Please help support The Coney Island History Project's rebuilding fund with a tax deductible contribution via our website. Your support is appreciated!

Charles Denson washes damaged photograph

posted Nov 7th, 2012 in News and tagged with

Summer is over, but the Coney Island History Project is open for walking tours and school groups in the fall! Take a stroll through the amusement area's past, present and future with the Coney Island History Project Walking Tour. Our unique walking tours are based on Coney Island 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.

Walking tours are led by historian Charles Denson or poet/teaching artist Amanda Deutch, who have over 100 years of family history in Coney Island. All tours of the amusement area begin with a private visit to the History Project's expanded exhibition center under the Wonder Wheel's iconic entrance sign on Denos D. Vourderis Place (West 12th Street), just a few steps off the Boardwalk. The 1-1/2 hour, wheelchair accessible tour includes a talk on the exhibits and objects on display.

Fall, Winter & Spring Walking Tours: From September 5, 2012 through May 24, 2013, Coney Island History Project Walking Tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays by advance reservation only. Individuals and groups may also book a private tour on a weekend or weekday. For info on purchasing tickets or questions about scheduling a tour, please email events@coneyislandhistory.org

Summer Walking Tours: From Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend, when the Coney Island History Project exhibit center is open for the season, tours begin on Saturdays and Sundays from 1pm.

What People Are Saying About Coney Island History Project Tours:

  • "Very cool tour! It was lots of fun and interesting. Thanks & keep up the good work!! Go history!" --Marie Carianna, Astoria, Queens
  • "Thank you very much for this instructive and lively experience!" --Roland Junt, Reningen, Germany
  • "Thoroughly enjoyable-- and will recommend." --Richard and Patti Gillespie, Texas
  • "Great tour with a lot of interesting information and sites. Coney Island is now on the top of my list of places I would like to visit again. Thanks, Amanda."--Ananda, South Africa (now West Orange, N.J.)
  • "Loved the walking tour with Amanda. Great visit back to my childhood-and more."--Randy, Roseland, N.J.

For Coney news, conversation, photos and special features like "On this Day in History," please visit the Coney Island History Project's Facebook Page and "like" us! Follow us on Twitter for news and views in 140 characters and check out our photos on Flickr.

posted Oct 21st, 2012 in News and tagged with

PLUS Professor Phineas Feelgood's World of Magic Visits the History Project

On Sunday, October 21st, the Coney Island History Project will be open from 12 noon till 5pm for an autumn get-together celebrating the ongoing exhibit "Coney Island Kids See Coney Island!" Young people who live or go to school in Coney Island and are currently in grades K-12 are invited to be part of this special exhibit featuring their perceptions of their neighborhood. Artwork and poems are featured in a digital slide show and a rotating display of original work at the Coney Island History Project's free exhibit center. Work is also being shown online via our flickr photo sharing page and Facebook.


Professor Phineas Feelgood

From 2-4pm, our special guest Bob Yorburg aka Professor Phineas Feelgood will perform Coney Island style magic. He will also bring along Punch and Judy puppets from his collection that belonged to Al Flosso aka The Coney Island Fakir. These puppets were used by Al in the early 1900's while he performed magic and Punch shows. Bob will also bring promotional materials used by Al Flosso in the 1910's. His fascination with turn-of-the-19th-century Coney Island, magic and the amusement arts began when he was a child. Since then he has been performing magic and a flea circus and carving amusement items reflecting old-time Coney Island.


  1. Send a scan or photo of the work as a jpeg via email to coneyislandhistory@gmail.com
  2. Mail original work up to 11 x 17" to Coney Island History Project, c/o Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, 3059 West 12th St, Brooklyn NY 11224
  3. Bring work to the Coney Island History Project during exhibit center hours.

There is no fee to enter the show. Include the artist's name, age, zip code and school. Photos of people requiring a release are not eligible.

The project is supported by a JPMorgan Chase Foundation Grant by the Brooklyn Arts Council. The JPMorgan Chase grants support Brooklyn-based arts organizations whose primary mission is to provide arts and cultural activities open to the general public.


This organization has received funding from the 2012 JPMorgan Chase Regrant Program, administered by Brooklyn Arts Council, Inc. (BAC).

posted Oct 15th, 2012 in News and tagged with

Pick up a Copy of Coney Island CreekWalk and Take a Self-Guided Tour


Join us on Saturday, October 20th, for the Beneath the Sea Waterfront Celebration and Coastal Clean Up from 10am. The free event in Coney Island's Kaiser Park includes an array of activities: scuba diving and hard-hat diving, marine education exhibits and demonstrations, robots that go underwater, arts and crafts such as pumpkin painting and making bird feeders, music and entertainment, and a waterfront walking tour.

Stop by the Coney Island History Project's table for a free copy of the walking tour brochure "Coney Island CreekWalk at Kaiser Park" and take a self-guided tour. The signs along the waterfront and the brochure were created by Charles Denson and produced by the Coney Island History Project with funding from a Partnership for Parks Catalyst Grant. The popular brochure is in its second printing and will also be available at the History Project exhibit center during October's special events.

The CreekWalk at Kaiser Park is a starting point for experiencing the creek's ecology and history, including the fishing pier, ship graveyard (including the wreck of the Yellow Submarine), wildlife, sand dunes, and other points of interest.

Special guests at the October 20th event at Kaiser Park include Gene Ritter of Cultural Research Divers, discoverer of the Dreamland Bell; Bill Evans, author, diver and WABC-TV weatherman; and Rod Roddenberry, founder of the Roddenberry Dive Team and producer of Trek Nation.

posted Oct 15th, 2012 in News and tagged with

John Farrell as "Walt Whitman: Time Traveler"
Visits the History Project!

John Farrell as Walt Whitman: Time Traveler

The Coney Island History Project will be open special hours from 1-5pm on October 13th and 14th in conjunction with Parachute: the Coney Island Performance Festival. Poet, actor and Whitmaniac John Farrell will be reciting Walt Whitman at the History Project on Sunday, October 14, from 2-4pm. Admission is free of charge.

Mr. Farrell's one-man show "Walt Whitman: Time Traveler" premiered last year in Ireland. In New York, he has performed as Whitman at the Brooklyn Book Festival, NYC Poetry Festival and Dixon Place. "Walt Whitman, an American poetry icon, was a frequent visitor of Coney's shores in the 1800's," says Parachute Festival director Amanda Deutch, who notes that Whitman ran along Coney Island's coast shouting Homer and Shakespeare to the Atlantic surf. The limited edition broadside of Whitman's words on Coney Island pictured above will be for sale at the festival.

Parachute: the Coney Island Performance Festival will feature two evenings of literary readings and two afternoons of poetry workshops. Visit the festival website for details and to make reservations for these free events. The main stage is located in the NY Aquarium's Alien Stingers Exhibit, in front of the Jellyfish. Doors will open at 6:30 and readings will begin at 7pm both nights. A wide array of established and up-and coming Brooklyn based poets and writers will be presented.

Highlights include Brooklyn Poet Laureate Tina Chang; Martin Espada, called the "Latino poet of his generation"; Joanna Fuhrman, author of Freud in Brooklyn; Sheila Maldonado, Coney Island native and author of One-Bedroom Solo; and a sound installation of a poem by Vito Acconci. Charles Denson, author of Coney Island: Lost and Found, will read a 19th century poem about Coney Island. In addition to the main stage reading events, there will also be surprise site-specific poetry happenings around Coney Island, which will be announced on the festival's website.

The Coney Island History Project exhibit center will be open on both Saturday and Sunday afternoon for this special event. View historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films of Coney Island's colorful past. Exhibits on view include Abe Feinstein: 50 Years of Coney Island Photography, Inside the Shore Theater: Photographs by Charles Denson and Coney Island Bathhouses: A Lost Culture. In the fall, the exhibit center is open for Coney Island History Project Walking Tours, group visits and special events.

The exhibit center is located at 3059 West 12th Street at the entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, which is open Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon through October. The weekend of the performance festival also happens to be the last chance to ride the iconic Wonder Wheel in 2012! The cars will be coming off next week as the 92-year-old Coney Island landmark begins its annual maintenance schedule.

posted Oct 11th, 2012 in News and tagged with


Last week, the City's Economic Development Corporation issued a Request for Proposals to develop and operate amusements on a long vacant lot at West 15th Street in Coney Island. The Coney Island History Project has received several queries about the history of the site. The narrow city-owned lot up for bid was formerly owned by the Tilyou family since the 1880s and has a long amusement history. When West 15th Street was cut through from Surf Avenue to the Boardwalk in 1922 it replaced the narrow Bushman's Walk and forced the relocation of the Drop the Dip roller coaster which overlapped the bed of the street. Irving Baths bathhouse was located on the Boardwalk end of the new street and a Mangels Whip ride sat at the Bowery end. Between the Bowery and Surf was Morgan's Cabaret, replaced in the 1950s by the Magic Carpet Fun House, Donkey Ball Game, and Shatzkins Knishes. The Whip ride was later replaced by numerous McCullough attractions and then a Wild Mouse Coaster and Go-Kart track, both of which closed and sat abandoned until the early 1980s. The lot was later let go for back taxes, became city property, and was cleared of decaying rides. The late Andy Badalamenti built a corral at the Surf Avenue end of the property for the use of Police horses assigned to patrol Coney Island. In recent times, the property has reverted to a natural state providing a green, park-like environment from Surf Avenue to the Boardwalk. The site is adjacent to the privately owned property where the Thunderbolt Roller Coaster stood until its demolition in 2000. -Charles Denson


posted Sep 27th, 2012 in News and tagged with

History Day has been rescheduled! See you on sunny SUNDAY, AUGUST 12, 2012 (instead of Saturday, August 11). Same bands, same events, same time and place: Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and the Coney Island History Project from 1pm-6pm. Coney Trivia Contest with Charles Denson at 2pm and again at 3pm under the Wonder Wheel.

Although the 2012 History Day is rescheduled for Sunday, the Coney Island History Project exhibit center will be OPEN RAIN OR SHINE on SATURDAY with a new exhibit on the cultural history of Coney Island bathhouses. Open Saturday & Sunday, 12-6pm. FREE!


posted Aug 10th, 2012 in News and tagged with


Wards Baths - copyright Charles Denson

A new exhibit on the cultural history of Coney Island's bathhouses and the art of bathhouse tags will open on August 11 as part of our "History Day" celebration and will be on view through September 3rd.

There were once more than 50 bathhouses of all kinds lining the beach at Coney Island. A century ago bathhouses provided the only access to the beach and, for many, a home away from home. Now hardly anyone knows what a bathhouse is. The shorefront facilities were a popular cultural phenomenon, providing entertainment, lockers, changing rooms, showers, swim suit rentals, steam baths, massive salt water pools, athletic equipment, game courts, restaurants, and fenced wooden decks for nude sunbathing. This exhibit provides a history told in photographs, admission tickets, oral history, and the folk art of bathhouse key tags.

The Coney Island History Project is open Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 12 noon - 6pm through Labor Day. Admission is free of charge. Our exhibit center is located at 3059 West 12th Street at the entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, just a few steps off the Boardwalk.


bathhouse tag

Coney Island History Project The exhibition center is also open by appointment for schools and groups and for special events. It is the starting point for the Coney Island History Project's popular walking tours of the amusement area. The 1-1/2 hour walking tours are led by historian Charles Denson or poet/teaching artist Amanda Deutch, who have over 100 years of family history in Coney Island! Please visit our online reservation website to see the walking tour schedule and purchase advance tickets online. If you have a question or to arrange a group tour, e-mail events@coneyislandhistory.org.


posted Aug 10th, 2012 in News and tagged with