More to remember: Coney museum grows

More to remember: Coney museum grows
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

The People’s Playground is being bottled up for old times sake.

The Coney Island History Project will expand its storefront museum beneath Deno’s Wonder Wheel this summer to showcase its growing collection of artifacts and oral testimonies of the iconic amusement district before it morphs into a state-of-the-art, 21st century entertainment Mecca.

“We’re keeping [old-school] Coney Island alive in living memory,” said Charles Denson, the project’s executive director and founding member.

Denson doubled the deli-sized W. 12th Street museum this winter by renting an adjacent shop and converting the two buildings between Bowery Street and the Boardwalk into an exhibition center with a brand new recording studio where visitors can preserve their favorite memories of the world-famous seaside resort.

The expanded museum, which moved from its original location next to the Cyclone to its current home last summer, will also feature a treasure trove of Coney memorabilia, including rare photographs, objects from the Astroland amusement park, and chunks of the century-old B&B Carousell, which will reopen in 2013 inside the $29.5 million Steeplechase Plaza being built by the city beside the landmark Parachute Jump.

“We’re going to show some unusual objects that haven’t been seen in years,” said Denson. “The [museum] will connect the old Coney Island to the new one.”

Visitors can look forward to more glimpses of Coney Island’s future this summer: Central Amusement — the company tapped by the city to transform the area into an upscale, year-round fun zone — will open a go-kart track and a 110-foot-tall Skycoaster ride between Stillwell Avenue and W. 15th Street.

The amusement giant and Luna Park operator also agreed to bring some Brooklyn-born restaurants back to the Boardwalk, but dumped several favorites, including Beer Island and Cha-Cha’s bar, to make way for fine dining.

Coney’s faithful welcomed the museum’s expansion.

“It’s great that we’re preserving history,” said Stan Fox, who volunteers at the archive.

Denson, who was born in Coney Island, isn’t the only old-timer increasing his profile in the area — Coney Island USA, the group behind the Mermaid Parade and Sideshows by the Seashore, scooped up a popular ice cream parlor on Surf Avenue last month for a cool $1.3 million with plans to turn the building into an arts center.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.