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Posts Tagged ‘Astroland Park’

Astrolands Bright and Shining Gate On Surf Avenue, September 7, 2008. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita

Astroland's Bright and Shining Gate On Surf Avenue, September 7, 2008. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita

One of the eight-foot by seven-and-a-half-foot lighted stars from Astroland’s Surf Avenue gate is in the National Air and Space Museum among other space-age icons, but the second one could be yours for Christmas. Along with pieces of Dante’s Inferno dark ride, the Bonanza shooting gallery, and a variety of signage, the star is among the last vestiges of the Coney Island amusement park being offered for sale. Mark Blumenthal, Astroland’s longtime operations manager, has overseen the sale of the rides since the park closed and was dismantled at the end of 2008. If you’re interested in acquiring an Astro artifact, you can email Blumenthal at astrolandmark[at]aol[dot]com.

Dante's Inferno demon

Dante’s Inferno demon on crane, Astroland Park in Coney Island- Photo © Tricia Vita. December 26, 2008.

“We’d like to sell the ride as a whole,” Blumenthal said of Dante’s, which consists of the giant demon’s head and torso from the façade, props, track and cars in storage trailers. “But if someone has a home for the pieces, we’d entertain the idea of selling them.” Dante’s Inferno was made by the Italian manufacturer Soli and brought to Astroland in 1971, according to a tribute on Laff in the Dark’s website. More than a dozen stunts created by Lou Nasti’s Brooklyn-based Mechanical Displays in the 1990s are also for sale.

At the Brooklyn Museum, the Cyclops head from Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park’s Spook-A-Rama dark ride, which is going into its 66th year of operation in Coney, is on display as part of the exhibit Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland. Can Dante’s demon make a similar transition from the amusement park midway to the art world? Or what about bringing it home to Coney and exercising a little creative reuse?

Also being offered for sale is the old-timey Bonanza shooting gallery, where you could shoot the piano player. You may recall it was located on the Surf Avenue side of the park next to Gregory & Paul’s. Manufactured by Taylor Engineering, Bonanza shooting galleries first debuted in 1958 and this one was brought to Coney Island by Gregory in the mid-’70s.

“It was redone a couple of years before we closed,” says Blumenthal. “It’s the old technology,” referring to the fact that vintage Bonanza galleries used photocell sensors activated by a bright light source, usually from the rifles. That’s why there were multiple signs saying “No Photography” and why we have no photos. You can catch a glimpse of it in the following video. Refurbished galleries such as “The World’s Largest Bonanza Gallery.” currently on the fair circuit, use an infrared beam of light instead of flashing light.

As we noted in a post in 2013, Astroland’s rides have found homes in Costa Rica, South America, Australia, New Jersey and Brooklyn. Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park brought back the Barbieri Bumper Cars and Scrambler, and together with the Coney Island History Project, the 1960’s Astroland Rocket, which once perched on Gregory & Paul’s rooftop as an advertisement.

Signage from Astroland’s Surf and Boardwalk entrances to the park, as well as the arcade are also for sale.”I miss it, but a lot of us miss it,” Blumenthal says of Astroland. “Now it’s part of history.”

Astroland arcade sign

Astroland arcade sign. Photo © Tricia Vita. July 25, 2008

Related posts on ATZ…

June 4, 2014: Astroland Rocket Finds New Home Beside the Wonder Wheel

July 17, 2013: Astroland Rides Find Homes in Brooklyn, Costa Rica and Australia

March 16, 2012: Rest in Peace: Jerry Albert, Co-Founder of Coney Island’s Astroland Park

December 16, 2010: Blast from the Past: LFO’s Summer Girls Music Video

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This weekend was the 5th anniversary of the closing of Coney Island’s Astroland. Founded in 1962, the park’s last day of operation was Sunday, September 7, 2008. Instead of showing photos of the park’s last day and night, we’ve gathered some videos of Astroland’s most popular rides in action.

“If you want to get off this ride at any time, raise your hand, we’ll set you free, y’all better hold on. Here we go, here we go, here here we go oh…,” says the operator of the Huss Breakdance at the beginning of the on-ride video made by TheDod3.com.

According to the website, which features ride reviews, photos and videos by a very knowledgeable ride enthusiast: “Most amusement parks in the US will run their Breakdance rides at a moderate speed, turning it into a ride good for everyone. Other Breakdance rides, such as damn near every single one in Europe and Astroland’s old Breakdance, are thrill rides through and through.”

Astroland’s Breakdance and Pirate Ship went to Costa Rica. The Topspin relocated to Seaside Heights, New Jersey, where it survived Sandy and has since been sold to Deggeller Attractions, a traveling carnival.

One of the Astroland Stars from the Surf Avenue gate is in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The 8-foot by 7-and-a-half-foot lighted star will be in an exhibit next year.

Since the Astrotower was demolished over the July 4th weekend, its stump is all that remains of Astroland on City-owned property in Coney Island. There are rumors that the iconic Astroland Rocket will finally return to Coney Island as promised by City officials in 2009.

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September 5, 2013: It’s Time to Bring the Astroland Rocket Back to Coney Island

July 17, 2013: Astroland Rides Find Homes in Brooklyn, Costa Rica and Australia

April 14, 2012: Astroland Bumper Cars Return Home to Coney Island

May 29, 2009: Astroland Star from Coney Island’s Space-Age Theme Park Donated to the Smithsonian

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The Remains of the Astrotower

The Astrostump is all that remains of the 275-foot Astrotower. July 7, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

After the nightmarish July 4 Holiday Weekend demolition of the Swaying Tower of Coney Island, all that remains in Luna Park are a few feet, shown above, covered with tarp. It looks like a grave. The media appear to have lost interest in what they called “the iconic Astrotower” as soon as it was chopped down to about 90 feet, a third of its original size.

News reports that “Officials have not said yet whether the tower will be reassembled or if it’s gone for good” are ridiculous. The tower was not dismantled, bolt by bolt. It was cut apart with a blowtorch and the pieces were hauled off to the Cropsey Avenue scrapyard, where fans rushed to photograph it and salvage pieces as a souvenir.

Coney fans on social media are referring to what’s left of the tower in Coney Island as the Astrostump or the Lunastump. Some of our friends who live in nearby high rises and for whom the Astrotower was an intrinsic part of the skyline say something’s missing and they feel sad.

Astrotower

Local resident Rochelle Goldman, who live-tweeted the last hours of the demolition, posing with section of the Astrotower, July 5, 2013. Photo © Rochelle Goldman

It is more than sad. The Parachute Jump, sole survivor of Steeplechase, endured years of neglect and threats of demolition before being landmarked in 1988 and rehabbed in 2002. Astroland, Coney’s Island’s Space-Age theme park, opened in 1964, which was Steeplechase’s final season. For children of the late 60’s and the 1970’s and beyond, Astroland Park was Coney Island.

The tower was all that remained of Astroland in the new Coney Island and now it’s gone.

Astrotower

Astrotower, September 9, 2007. Photo © Adrian Kinloch via britinbrooklyn.net

This photo and the one below were snapped by photographer Adrian Kinloch on the last day of the 2007 season, when the observation tower last operated as a ride.

Astroland was built on the site of Feltman’s, the restaurant and amusement park complex owned by Charles Feltman, the inventor of the hot dog. When the Albert family decided to develop the park, Jerry Albert began making trips to the West Coast and Europe to seek out state-of-the-art rides. Designed and built by Willy Bühler Space Towers Company of Switzerland with cabins by Von Roll, the $1.7 million dollar Astrotower was the first of its kind in the U.S. when it was installed.

“Who Wants An Outlandish Astrotower? Who Wants A Big Bagel in the Sky?” said an editorial in the World Telegram and Sun when the Astrotower made its debut in 1964, according to the book “Coney Island and Astroland” by Charles Denson. “There’s only one place where anyone would dare to put up such a thing, and that’s Coney Island, that land of the frivolous, where gaiety and fun have reigned for years. We’re glad to see the old place hasn’t lost it’s zest for the bizarre.” R.I.P. Astrotower, 1964-2013.

Astrotower

Hungry March Band Play as they Ride Astrotower on Astroland’s Last Night of 2007 Season, September 9, 2007. Photo © Adrian Kinloch via britinbrooklyn.net

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July 3, 2013: Long Live Coney Island’s Swaying, Singing Astrotower!

March 16, 2012: Rest in Peace: Jerry Albert, Co-Founder of Coney Island’s Astroland Park

September 28, 2012: Astrotower Lit for 1st Time Since Astroland Closed in 2008

May 29, 2009: Astroland Star from Coney Island’s Space-Age Theme Park Donated to the Smithsonian

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Jerry Albert Astroland

Jerry Albert (center) with Astrotower manager and welder, sliding Astrocule time capsule into the tower foundation. Photo from Coney Island and Astroland by Charles Denson. All Rights Reserved

Coney Island lost an historical figure who helped transform one of the amusement area’s oldest properties into a space age theme park in the 1960s. Jerry Albert, the co-founder of Astroland Park with his father Dewey Albert, died on Thursday after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. This year is the 50th anniversary of the founding of Astroland, which broke ground in 1962 and closed at the end of the 2008 season.

Astroland was built on the site of Feltman’s, the restaurant and amusement park complex owned by Charles Feltman, the inventor of the hot dog. The new park started with little more than a miniature golf course, a Double Diving Bell, a Sky Ride, and six kiddie rides. When the Alberts decided to develop the park, Jerry Albert began making trips to the West Coast and Europe to seek out state-of-the-art rides.

“The Mercury Capsule Skyride,” “The Ascension Tower,” and “The Rocket Ship Star Flyer” were among the space-age rides mentioned in an early press release about Coney Island’s new park. Neptune’s Water Flume was one of the early flumes made by Arrow Development, a pioneering ride builder for Disney, in the early 1960s right after the New York World’s Fair, and it was built specifically for this park. The $1.7 million Von Roll Astrotower from Switzerland was the first ride of its kind in the United States when it was installed in 1963.

In the historic photo above from Charles Denson’s Coney Island and Astroland, Jerry Albert (center) pictured with Astrotower manager Charlie Bower and welder Joe Peluso, slides the Astrocule time capsule into the tower foundation. “The press nicknamed it the ‘Bagel in the Sky’ or ‘Flying Bagel,'” writes Denson in the book. “Jerry Albert embraced the name, serving bagels and lox at the tower’s opening, as his mother cracked a bottle of champagne on its base. When the tower opened in July 1964, the conversion of Feltman’s into Astroland was complete.”

Jerry Albert took over the operation of Astroland Park after Dewey Albert’s death in 1992, notes Denson. After he retired due to the onset of Parkinson’s, his wife Carol Hill Albert operated the park until it closed. In 2004, the Coney Island History Project, a nonprofit that aims to increase awareness of Coney’s legendary and colorful past, was founded by Carol Hill Albert and Jerry Albert in honor of Dewey Albert.

In 1987, on the 25th anniversary of Astroland, the New York Post hailed the Alberts as “the family that keeps Coney Island rolling,” adding that while so much of Coney Island had burned down or was in decay, the Alberts kept the Cyclone running and kept expanding the park. By way of explanation, Jerry Albert told the reporter, “We have sand in our shoes.” Spoken by those who have an intimate working connection with Coney Island, the phrase conveys an unwavering commitment to this place where the amusement industry was born.

Funeral services will be held at 11 am 10 am Sunday at Plaza Jewish Community Chapel, 630 Amsterdam Ave at 91st Street in Manhattan, to be followed by interment at Mt. Lebanon Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers donations may be sent to the American Parkinson Association, 135 Parkinson Ave. Staten Island, New York 10305

UPDATE March 17, 2012:

More tributes…

“In Memorium: Jerry Albert, Co-Founder of Astroland Park” by Charles Denson, Coney Island History Project

“Jerome Albert, Who Helped Bring Space Age to Coney Island, Dies at 74” by Dennis Hevesi, New York Times

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