Astroland's Bright and Shining Gate On Surf Avenue, September 7, 2008. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita
photo via me-myself-i, flickr
After Astroland closed last year, the iconic front gate with its two spinning stars was dismantled and put in storage along with the park’s rides. Next week one lucky star will travel to its new home, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. The museum announced today that Carol Hill Albert and Jerome Albert, owners of the former Astroland Park and current operators of Coney Island’s Cyclone roller coaster, have donated an eight-foot-high lighted star from the Astroland entrance gate to the Smithsonian Institution.
The Star will be displayed along with other science fiction icons such as the Star Trek Starship Enterprise in the Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center after construction of Phase Two of the Center is completed in
2011 2013. According to Margaret A. Weitekamp, curator in the Museum’s Division of Space History, “The National Air and Space Museum is delighted to receive this important popular culture artifact into the national collection. Astroland embodied the widespread excitement about early human spaceflight in the early 1960s. Having a Star from the Astroland gateway, where thousands of people passed to enjoy this entertaining vision of the space age, is a wonderful example of that space craze.”
The Star, one of two from Astroland Park’s entrance on Surf Avenue in Coney Island, served as an iconic representation of Astroland’s space-age theme. The spinning stars were installed in 1963, at the height of the space race, and welcomed visitors for nearly half a century to the world renowned Astroland amusement park founded by Jerome Albert’s father, Dewey Albert.
Astroland Star on the Park's Surf Avenue Gate. Photo © Charles Denson/Courtesy of the Coney Island History Project
photo via Coney Island History Project, flickr
Carol Hill Albert said, “The Astroland Star was chosen by my late father in law Dewey Albert as part of his new ‘space age’ themed amusement park because of its sense, quite literally of a bright and shining future ahead. Also, the star emitted light, and so much of the amusement business’ magic depends on the design and impact of its lighting, which he was of course, very familiar with. I see it as a tribute to my father in law’s astonishing sense of magic and mystery, and his visionary approach to the amusement business and its future. My husband and I are thrilled to know that this original star will become part of the Smithsonian’s distinguished collection.”
The Star section of the gate is made of steel, weighs approximately 200 pounds, and measures 6.5 feet in diameter. Each star is illuminated by 300 flashing lightbulbs (that includes both sides of the star). Astroland’s two stars were installed on a steel riser post that had a motor, which enabled the Stars to revolve.
Historian Charles Denson, the author of Coney Island: Lost and Found said, “The stars were an exciting and historic piece of Coney’s glimmering skyline and could be seen by millions of visitors arriving by subway. The sparkling star defined Astroland’s image, much as the crescent moon theme did at Luna Park, or the funny face logo did at Steeplechase Park.”
”In late 1961 Dewey Albert and his son Jerry Albert began transforming the Feltmans property into a space age theme park they called Feltmans Astro Park,” Denson says. “By the time it opened to the public in the summer of 1962 it had become ‘Astroland Park.’ After the closure of Steeplechase Park in 1964, the Albert family’s Astroland provided the anchor that held Coney Island together during the next four turbulent decades.”
A Time Magazine article from July 1963 described Coney Island’s then-new Astroland Park as “a $3,000,000 fun-and-games nexus devoted to space exploration. It has the Cape Canaveral Satellite Jet—passengers enter the rocket, fasten seat belts, then blast off with engines roaring as filmed special-effects from actual space shots conjure up a journey to the moon. The Colonel Glenn Sky Ride has 16 plastic bubbles orbiting 80 feet above the boardwalk. For downward exploration the Neptune Diving Bell encloses 30 people, drops them 35 feet down to an ‘ocean floor’ where live porpoises play.”
After Astroland Park closed in September 2008, the Astroland Rocket was donated to the City of New York to become part of the “new” Coney Island. The rest of “Astroland,” including the gate and the second Star, remains in storage, says owner Carol Hill Albert, “in suspended animation,” pending Coney Island’s future.
Astroland Star Being Removed from the Park's Iconic Front Gate. Photo © Charles Denson/Courtesy Coney Island History Project
photo via Coney Island History Project, flickr
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