The Neon of Old New York 

Page 6 of 6


click to enlarge Wonder Wheel

Standing at 150 feet, Denos Wonder Wheel is already the centerpiece of the Coney Island boardwalk, but in the ride’s amusement heyday, owner Herald J. Garms and the Eccentric Ferris Wheel Company ensured the wheel’s conspicuousness with several neon banners, including the animated sign on Twelfth Avenue. Constructed in 1950 and featuring a wheel with circling neon cars, the sign guards a lightly trafficked entrance to the wheel, but has nonetheless protected its notoriety — and taken some hard knocks for it. “The sign’s been hit by 18-wheelers making u-turns on a number of occasions,” said Dennis Vourderis, the current co-owner of the Wonder Wheel. “We always put it back up because it draws people in and adds to the flavor of the park.” The sign’s also a land-marked piece of New York history – part of the package Vourderis’ father, Denos, pushed through the fastidious New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1989. Still, landmark status doesn’t always keep the graffiti artists away, or Mother Nature from exacting her wear-and-tear. “Just before we open every year, we have to do extensive work on the corrosion of the sign,” Vourderis said. “The previous owners had a mesh screen over the sign to protect it from vandals, but we pulled it off. It just took away from the sign’s beauty.”



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