The WONDER WHEEL stands out as unique in the history of the modern pleasure wheel. Invented by Charles Hermann and built in 1918-1920 by the Eccentric Ferris Wheel Company using 100% Bethlehem Steel forged right on the premises, the Wheel opened on Memorial Day in 1920.
The WONDER WHEEL was initially called the "Dip-the-Dip" by its inventor, who promised to combine the thrill of a scenic railway, Ferris wheel and Chute-the-Chutes. An article in Science and Invention described the new ride as a "real thrill like you have probably never had before—at least not at this great height!"
Standing 150 feet tall -- the equivalent of a 15-story building -- and weighing 200 tons, the WONDER WHEEL has 24 cars, of which 16 are swinging and 8 are stationary. The swinging cars slide on a serpentine track towards the hub of the Wheel, and as the Wheel turns they slide towards the circumference. Each car holds 6 people for a total ride capacity of 144.
The WONDER WHEEL has maintained a perfect safety record for its entire history. The 18 original co-owners of the Wheel worked as construction men to insure quality throughout the building process. Each year, the entire 400,000 lb. ride is overhauled and painted to protect it from the elements of weather, wear, and tear.
On June 7, 1983, Denos D. Vourderis bought the WONDER WHEEL from Fred Garms, whose father Herman was its first owner-operator, and it became DENO's WONDER WHEEL. The Vourderis family went to work restoring the Wheel to pristine condition and made it the centerpiece of DENO'S WONDER WHEEL PARK.
One of the oldest, most cherished rides in Coney Island, DENO'S WONDER WHEEL was designated an official New York City landmark by the City's Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1989. Over 35 million rides have been given since it was built.
The world-famous WONDER WHEEL was the inspiration for full-size replicas in Disney's California Adventure and Dreamland in Yokohama, Japan.
The only stoppage in the history of the WONDER WHEEL was on July 13, 1977, during the Great NYC Blackout – when the entire northeast lost electrical power. Riders on the WONDER WHEEL were brought down safely because the owners hand cranked the wheel.
Constantinos Dionysios Vourderis (Deno), The 8th of 22 Children, was born in Aigion, Greece in 1920. He emigrated to the United States to pursue the American Dream, leaving his native country at age 14 and joining the Merchant Marines.
Always a hard worker, he joined the US Army during World War II on Feb 9th 1945, working as a cook and receiving the Good Conduct Medal, American Theater Ribbon, Meritorius Unit Award and the WWII Victory Ribbon. He was honorably discharged on June 8th 1946 and registered for a peddlers license in order to work the food trade from pushcarts in Manhattan.
Through the 1940's 50's and 60's, Denos sold from pushcarts and operated a restaurant in Tarrytown, always taking his family to Coney Island for recreation and marveling at the Boardwalk, happy people and the spectacular WONDER WHEEL. He often told his wife Lula, that one day he would buy that WONDER WHEEL for her as a wedding present – a ring so big, everyone in the world would see how much he loved her – a ring that would never be lost.
Through the 1960's Denos began operating a Boardwalk restaurant and helping manage the kiddie park formerly known as Ward's. When Ward's came upon difficult times in 1981, it was Denos Vourderis who was offered the opportunity to preserve a legacy. Coney Island was in the midst of the hardest of hard times – with the fewest number of visitors and no development, however Denos knew that the joy and summer pleasures of the Coney Island beach and the family amusement park experience would survive and could last for the next generation, so he agreed.
When the WONDER WHEEL itself became available for purchase in 1983, there were several interested parties, however, the former owners – the Garms family – were only willing to entrust this magnificent world -famous ride to one man – to the one person they knew would personally maintain it's promise and brilliance – they would only sell to Denos Vourderis – despite having higher offers from other parties.
Their trust was well-rewarded. Denos, with his sons and daughters working beside him began to build Denos WONDER WHEEL Amusement and Kiddie Park – landmarking the WONDER WHEEL in 1989, adding new attractions, rides, games, arcades each and every year. The family works with community organizations, supports the neighborhood, and introduces national business interests to the possibilities still present in Coney Island. The Vourderis Family has kept a dream alive and we can all thank them for it. As we stand here near a beautiful new baseball stadium, we thank Denos D. Vourderis for working hard, having a vision and sharing it with all of us.
The street naming is an honor and a treasure for all of Brooklyn to remember when they come to Coney Island to enjoy this beach, this Boardwalk and Denos Wonder Wheel Amusement Park.
Coney Island is everywhere – being famous is fun! If you are looking for a great location for a shoot – Deno's Wonder Wheel is the place. Deno's WONDER WHEEL PARK has appeared in movies, tv shows, commercials, music videos, and magazine ads, including: