Saturday, September 5, 2009

Historic Dreamland Bell Comes Up for Air

As the one year anniversary of Astroland's closing draws near, otherwise mournful Coney Islanders have found a very special reason to smile. What once was lost has been found again! The historic 500-pound brass bell which welcomed legions of visitors to the original Dreamland Park some 100 years ago was raised from the ocean floor this week amid much celebration.

It was originally thought that the bell had been destroyed in the 1911 fire that wiped out the rest of Dreamland, but Coney Island diver Gene Ritter was not content to settle for speculation. Ritter set out on a personal quest to find the long lost bell back in 1990, and finally met with success last year. The culmination of his nearly 20-year mission came on September 3, 2009, when a team from Cultural Research Divers rescued the bell and brought it back to the Coney Island mainland. A local news station captured some great video footage of the bell arriving at the dock.

A permanent home is now being sought for this precious piece of Coney Island history. But if you want to catch a sneak peek, the bell will be on display at the Coney Island History Project exhibition center for the next two weekends. It will be complemented by period photos of Dreamland (the REAL one, not Joe Sitt's version!) as well as a photo documentary of the bell's raising prepared by the organization's Executive Director, Charles Denson. The hours are as follows:

  • September 5-7, 2009 from 1 p.m. until 6 p.m.

  • September 12-13, 2009 from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m.
If you've never visited the Coney Island History Project before, don't fret: It's quite easy to find! It's located at 824 Surf Avenue, just east of W. 10th Street and directly beneath the famous Cyclone roller coaster. (Where else?) What better way to spend a 3-day weekend than taking in some vintage industry memorabilia!