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

Parachute Jump lighting designer
Leni Schwendinger discusses her inspiration and process in creating a lighting design for the Parachute Jump including color selection and finding a way to express the feeling and movement of the Parachute Jump when it was a working ride. She...
Polish immigrant finds success with an Italian food stand in 1950s Coney Island
Morris Egert moved to Coney Island with his family in the early 1950's from Paterson, New Jersey to open a food stand on 16th Street across from Steeplechase Park. As recent immigrants from Poland, they served chopped liver, gefilte fish and...
A member of the Iceberg Athletic Club from 1971-2007
Joe Lazzaro, born in 1927, was a member of the Iceberg Club, a group of Coney Island cold-water-bathing enthusiasts, from 1971 until the club disbanded in 2007. He continues to spend time at the beach every day, often accompanied by his...
Sideshow Proprietor
John Strong operated a sideshow in the summer of 2009 in Coney Island. He describes the animals in his show... all of which have unusual features such as extra eyes, heads or legs. John tells the story of a five-legged dog that caused a controversy...
Roller coaster restorer and enthusiast
Robert Maxwell came with his wife to visit Coney Island from the town of Amsterdam in upstate New York. They drove down for the day to eat Nathan's hot dogs and ride The Cyclone. Robert estimates that has ridden The Cyclone at least 35-40 times...
Took the 13th Ave. trolley
Dave Galler grew up at 72nd Street and 12th Avenue in an area known as Dyker Beach, between Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, in the 1940's. He still remembers the details of the train and trolley routes he took to get to Coney Island. The...
Juilliard trained musician whose family owned Washington Baths
José Beth Smolensky, born in 1927, describes growing up working for the Washington Baths, her family's Coney Island business. Her father, Harry Smolensky had high standards for cleanliness and kept the baths open for a longer season than most....
Grew up in a Coney Island bungalow
Tommy Smith grew up with thirteen brothers and sisters in a Coney Island bungalow. Their father worked at a number of bars around town and Tommy began working around town at an early age too. He learned to make egg creams and frappes at Dick'...
A painter with a Coney Island legacy
Marie Roberts hails from an illustrious Coney Island family.  Her grandfather was the Acting Battalion Chief of the Coney Island district and fought some of the most notable fires in Brooklyn history including the Dreamland fire of 1911 that burned...
Began his career as a sign painter in Coney Island
John Rea is currently an advertising professional and adjunct professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York, but he began his career as a young teenager working for his father, also John Rea, in the Peluso Machine and Iron Works shop in Coney...