Coney Island History Project to debut new exhibit featuring photography by Barbara Rosenberg on May 28

Cy the Spook-A-Rama Cyclops at the Coney Island Historical Project
Take a free picture with Cy the Spook-A-Rama Cyclops every weekend and holiday this summer.
Photo courtesy of Coney Island History Project

The Coney Island History Project is opening its free-entry exhibition center over Memorial Day Weekend with a new exhibit capturing everyday Coney Islanders in the 1970s.

The small museum is open to the public on weekend days and holidays from 1–7 pm through Labor Day weekend starting this Saturday, May 28.  Visitors can take free souvenir photos with Cy, the Spook-A-Rama Cyclops, as well as the original Steeplechase horse, the only one of its kind and the origin of the naming of Steeplechase Park. 

The Coney Island History Project’s exhibition center is home to the oldest surviving artifact from the debut of the World’s Playground, the 1823 Toll House sign, a relic from the time when the fee for a horse and its rider to enter Coney Island was 5 cents, according to the neighborhood historic group.

Cook’s Baths, pictured next to to the Tornado (1926-1977).Barbara Rosenberg/Coney Island History Project

If you have a piece of history or memory of Coney Island you would like to share, visitors are invited to record their oral histories for the museum’s multilingual archive which has over 400 interviews available for listening. 

The new exhibit — only on view this summer from May 28 to Sept. 5 — features the street photography of lifelong New Yorker Barbara Rosenberg, who photographed the less-noticed facets of lives on the streets of the Big Apple, and especially Coney Island, where she is remembered at the exhibition center through her photos of Steeplechase Park, the Polar Bear Club and boardwalk attractions in the 1970s. 

black and white photo of two people in polar bear outfits at the coney island history project exhibition
The Polar Bear Plunge looked a little different back in the ’70s. Barbara Rosenberg/Coney Island History Project

The exhibition center is located inside Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park at 3059 W. 12th St, adjacent to the park’s W. 12th Street Entrance and steps from the Riegelmann Boardwalk. The organization has come a long way since its inception in 2004, when they were housed in a portable recording booth on the boardwalk, and then opened its exhibition center under the Cyclone in 2007. However, the organization has kept its mantra, “Free Admission for One and All” the same throughout the journey.

Update (May 27, 11:35): A photo caption has been edited to correctly name the rollercoaster located next to the former Cook’s Baths as the Tornado.