Just watching this video of Coney historian Charles Denson climbing the 270-foot tall Parachute Jump gives us vertigo. Ten years ago, when the landmarked Jump was about to get a $5 million refurbishment, we did a story for Preservation that featured a striking portrait of Denson standing atop the tower. Denson’s 10-minute film of the climb, released today via his “Coneyologist” Channel on YouTube, features video footage by Seth Kaufman and his own exquisite photos.
The Coney Island native, who came of age riding the Parachute Jump with his dad in Steeplechase Park, told us: “That ride—there was nothing like it, before or since. Just when you thought, ‘It can’t go any higher,’ the chute hit the top and exploded. You were flying in a free fall. Then it billowed open and you sailed down.”
Originally designed by a retired Naval commander to train military paratroopers in the 1930s, parachute towers were modified into amusement attractions when civilians clamored to ride. Denson last soared from the Jump’s tower in 1962, two years before the great granddaddy of vertical-thrill rides, along with the rest of Steeplechase Park, closed forever.
In 2002, Denson fulfilled his childhood dream to once again see the view from the top. He writes:
The Jump was a nature preserve. The motor room base was filled with pigeon nests and covered with muddy footprints of the raccoons who fed on the eggs. A raptor circled us at the top as we disturbed its perch, and the feet of the many small birds it had caught and devoured were spread out across the catwalks. I grew up a few blocks from the Jump and have documented it since it closed. When the city decided to dismantle and renovate the Jump ten years ago, my engineer friend Seth Kaufman had the only copy of the original plans. The city needed them so we made a deal: We got to climb it legally.
If you think it would be crazy fun to scale Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower, keep in mind Denson has issued a warning remarkably similar to that of a sideshow sword swallower: “Do NOT try this on your own. It is extremely dangerous and chances are that you will die.”
Related posts on ATZ…
July 19, 2011: Video of the Day: Let Us Now Praise Coney Island’s Zipper
February 2, 2011: Video: Coney Island —> Times Square by David Patrick Alexander
January 27, 2011: Video: Coney Island: Secrets of the Universe by Charles Denson
January 15, 2011: ATZ Saturday Matinee: Shorty at Coney Island