1/6/14

Coney Island History Project Turns 10

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Coney Island History Project, which started out on the Boardwalk in the "Memory Booth," an air-conditioned rolling recording studio that became so popular it was moved to a permanent location.

Over the last decade, CHIP has archived the oral histories of Coney luminaries Jack Ward, Jimmy McCullough, Matt Kennedy, Joe Rollino, and others whose voices would have been lost forever.

Carol Hill Albert and Jerome Albert founded the Coney Island History Project in honor of Dewey Albert, who created Astroland Park, opening the first CHIP exhibit center under the Cyclone in 2007.

At the invitation of the Vourderis family, which owns Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, CHIP moved to its current home next to the Wonder Wheel in 2011.

The Coney Island Hall of Fame, a CHIP spinoff that opened on West 10th Street across from the Cyclone roller coaster in 2005, honors the Coney Island visionaries who have have helped shape and define The People's Playground over the past century.

Exhibits have included "Land Grab: A History of Coney Island Development"; "Woody Guthrie's Coney Island Years"; "The Astroland Archives Photography Exhibit"; "Coney Island Icons," "Luna Park Revisited"; "The Dreamland Fire Centennial"; and "Coney Island Bathhouses: A Lost Culture."

In 2012, the Hall of Fame presented the first solo show of local photographer Abe Feinstein, who has been documenting the street life of Coney Island for more than half a century.

During the Hurricane Sandy recovery year of 2013, CHIP mounted two exhibits: "The Curious Playland Arcade Art of Larry Millard", featuring salvaged Millard murals and a photo archive of his work from the walls of the Playland building, demolished in February; and a photographic history of the Wonder Wheel celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Vourderis family's ownership.

This summer, CHIP and Deno's Wonder Wheel Park inaugurated the new Dreamland Plaza on West 12th Street by presenting the 3rd Annual Coney Island History Day, with a Coney Island history trivia contest, a magic show, and a chance -- thanks to members of Automatic Musical Instrument Collectors Association (AMICA) and the Carousel Organ Association of America (COAA) -- to try organ-grinding.

On Sandy's first anniversary in September, CHIP director Charlie Denson premiered his Sandy documentary "The Storm" at the Coney Island Film Festival and the Brooklyn Art Council's Brooklyn Film Series.

In October, the New York State Marine Education Association (NYSMEA) presented the Herman Melville Literary Award to Charlie Denson for his contributions to marine education through CHIP, his books and his efforts to preserve Coney Island Creek.

Ever since Thompson and Dundy brought "A Trip to the Moon" to Steeplechase Park in 1902, space travel and aeronautics have been a fantasy theme in Coney's amusement parks. In late December, the city approved CHIP's proposal to bring back the Astroland Rocket and mount an extensive exhibit about the rocket and other space-themed Coney attractions. CHIP will acquire the historic rocket and
the Vourderis family will permanently house it at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park.

CHIP will continue bringing Coney Island history to local schools this year and offering year-round walking tours that attract New Yorkers and visitors from everywhere.

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