NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There’s a lot more to Coney Island than the Brooklyn Cyclones and Nathan’s Hot Dogs – and the Coney Island History Project will make sure you know it.
The group will commemorate the 100-year anniversary of a fire that took out nearly an entire park – Dreamland, which is now the New York City Aquarium – by displaying photos and artifacts, and offering walking tours.
“People are fascinated by Coney Island,” Coney Island historian Charles Denson told CBSNewYork. “But a lot of the attractions from the past are gone, so we show people where they were, how they’ve changed and what’s going to happen in the future.”
In May 1911, a fire blazed across Coney Island that almost completely destroyed the Dreamland Park, which was never rebuilt to the capacity at which it once stood.
One exhibit will include photos of Dreamland before the fire, alongside current photos of the park as a way to show the changes during the last 100 years. Denson explained Coney Island’s significance—not only historically but also currently—to New Yorkers.
“Everything is in transition,” said Denson. “Coney Island is going through huge changes. We want to explain what’s happening.”
Noting that many New Yorkers have personal connections to the historic site, the Coney Island History Project invites those with their own stories to record them for the group’s initiative. The recorded stories are exhibited at Brooklyn College.
“It’s a visceral, very personal experience,” Denson said. You don’t get this with things like Disneyland.”
Denson led the initial walking tour, based off his book, Coney Island Lost and Found, on Friday. Beginning Memorial Day, there will be tours every Sunday until Labor Day.
To purchase tickets or for more information, visit the Coney Island History Project.