Charles Denson

Charles Denson is executive director of the nonprofit Coney Island History Project, which has created an oral history archive and sponsors educational exhibits, school programs and performances. He is the author of Coney Island: Lost and Found, named 2002 New York Book of the Year by the New York Society Library. Mr. Denson grew up in Coney Island and began documenting his neighborhood as a boy, a passion that continues to this day. A writer, photographer and art director, he began his career in 1971 as a photographer for New York magazine and has since worked as art director for numerous publications. In 1999 he was awarded a Chronicle journalism fellowship at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2013 the New York State Marine Education Association presented the Herman Melville Award to him for his environmental advocacy on behalf of Coney Island Creek.

Interviews

David Head tells the story of African-American inventor Granville T. Woods and his electric roller coaster
David Head is a retired NYC Transit worker and former chairman of the Black History Committee for TWU Local 100. Head has championed the accomplishments of Granville T. Woods (1856-1910) and has published a book and is working on a film documentary...
A Coney Island resident describes her Steeplechase memories
Remembering Coney's carousels, the Steeplechase horses, Luna Park fires, riding the Parachute Jump, and her father, who worked at Dreamland.
Mary Hood came to Coney Island as a child and worked on the Bowery well into her 90s
95-year-old Mary Hood (a.k.a. Mary Fish) was a regular at the bar at Peggy O'Neill's. She was either working long hours as a ticket taker at the Eldorado Skooter or she was drinking into the wee hours. It was hard to pin her down or to keep up with...
The story behind the Boardwalk Lido Restaurant and the family who operated it from 1927 until 1960
Steve Arniotes and his family operated the Lido Restaurant and Bar on the Coney Island Boardwalk from 1927 until 1960. Steve and his brother were lawyers and both became judges. Arniotes describes his family roots and what it was like to operate a...
An immigrant sign painter recounts his journey from Jamaica and the UK to Coney Island.
(Hector) George Wallace tells the story of his immigration from Jamaica to England to Coney Island, where he has been an itinerant sign painter for the past four decades. Wallace's painting style is ubiquitous, and can be seen on the facades of Ruby...
Subsistence U.S.A. and the Coney Island History Project
Before her career in the amusement business, Carol Albert worked with famed photographer Bruce Davidson to produce an acclaimed book of oral histories titled Subsistence U.S.A. Her interest in oral history led to the founding of the Coney Island...
Getting engaged on the Wonder Wheel, the most romantic ride in the world
One Saturday in May when we arrived to open up the Coney Island History Project exhibit center, a group of people holding signs that spelled out WILL YOU MARRY ME??????? caught our eye. A couple was getting engaged on the Wonder Wheel! A popular...
Memories of family picnics under the Boardwalk and making new memories at Spook-A-Rama
For Carmen Arcendiaga, a trip to Coney Island with her granddaughter Zoe evokes memories of family picnics under the boardwalk, riding the Cyclone, and the Laughing Lady. They came to Coney Island after Carmen won an essay contest for a behind-the-...
Jodie Bell visits the Coney Island History Project and discovers a 1950s photograph of her Aunt, Rachel Bell, as Miss Coney Island
Jodie Bell tells stories about her family in Coney Island, some happy and some tragic.
A look behind the scenes at Steeplechase Park
Frank Newlands worked at Steeplechase Park in its final years, maintaining the electrical infrastructure for attractions that included the Pavilion, Parachute Jump, Ferris Wheel, and roller coaster. His stories give a rare and humorous glimpse into...