ASK PROFESSOR GINKGO: WHERE CAN I GO ‘ROUND AND ‘ROUND
Dear Professor Ginkgo:
I'm interested in the history of the city parks' carousels, including designers of the horses and architects of the structures. How many are there in New York City parks, and how can I get information such as hours of operation on them?
Thank you for your questions. In fact there are several carousels in parks around the City—each with its own unique charm and history. Let's start in Brooklyn, where many carousels (including the one now in Central Park) took their first spins.
The Prospect Park Carousel dates from 1912, when it began its life in Coney Island. It was crafted, in large part, by horse carver Charles Carmel. Today, this carousel is only one out of a dozen Carmel designs remaining. It features 51 carved wooden horses, a giraffe, a deer and two chariots with dragons spewing forth fire and flowers. In 1952, the Carousel was moved to Prospect Park, where it was in operation until 1983 when it broke down. In 1987 the Prospect Park Alliance raised $800,000 for its renovation. Carousel artist and conservator Will Morton VIII restored its colors to its original brilliance. The Carousel is located at the Willink entrance at the intersection of Empire Boulevard and Flatbush Avenue and is maintained by the Prospect Park Alliance. The Carousel is available for party rentals.
The Friedsam Memorial Carousel in Central Park was also created in Brooklyn, but the first carousel in Central Park opened in 1871, about 150 feet from the current site. Back then the carousels ran, literally, on “horsepower,” a mule and a horse hitched to a central pole in the basement turned the mechanism around. Electrification took place around the turn of the 20th century, and a new carousel replaced the old in 1924. When that carousel burned down in 1950, Parks & Recreation found the present carousel at the old Board of Metropolitan Transit (BMT) trolley terminal in Coney Island, and the BMT generously donated this carousel to Central Park. Sol Stein and Harry Goldstein had crafted this carousel, named the Friedsam Memorial Carousel, with the Artistic Carousel Manufacturing Company of Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 1908. It is one of the largest carousels in the United States, with 58 hand-carved, painted horses, and 2 chariots, all on a turntable 50 feet in diameter. The Carousel, with its large mechanical organ, is maintained by the Central Park Conservancy.
The carousel in Flushing Meadows Corona Park is located near the Hall of Science. It also came from Coney Island and was placed in the park for the 1964 World's Fair. The carousel was made up of several different carousels and includes animals from the former Feltmans and Stubbmans Carousels in Coney Island. It features one of only two Bruder Elite Orchestra Apollo Band organs still known to exist in the United States. A ride costs one dollar and the carousel is open weather permitting.
The Forest Park Carousel that exists now is very old, but it is not original to the park. The original carousel was constructed by William H. Dentzel and operated there until it burnt down on December 11, 1966. In 1972, while searching for a new carousel, concessionaire Restaurant Associates found another carousel built by Dentzel. This carousel dated back to 1903 where it ran in Dracut, Massachusetts. Eventually, the carousel was dismantled and put into storage. When it was found, it was in the possession of Victor Christ-Janer, an architect in Connecticut, who sold the carousel and replaced several horses he had given away. After a full restoration, the carousel operated until 1985, when it fell into disrepair. The carousel began operating again in the summer of 1989 and it holds some of the last surviving creations of master wood-carver Daniel Carl Muller who built this carousel with Dentzel. It contains 49 horses, a lion, a tiger, a deer, and two chariots arranged in three concentric circles.
The Carousel For All Children in Willowbrook Park is a Victorian-style merry-go-round that opened in 1999. The carousel boasts 51 carved, wooden figures of mythical beasts, endangered species and traditional carousel horses. It also showcases twenty hand-painted renderings of Staten Island landmarks, past and present. The Carousel For All Children is maintained by the Greenbelt Conservancy, and is open from May through October and rides cost $1.00 per person.
Finally, Le Carrousel in Bryant Park is the newest carousel to open in a city park, and it officially opened on June 11, 2002. Manufactured by the Fabricon Carousel Company of East New York, Brooklyn, Le Carrousel is 24 feet in diameter and has a frog, a rabbit, a deer, a cat, and 10 horses. Despite its young age, the carousel's design is very classical, and its organ plays French music. The carousel is maintained by the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation and costs $1.50 per 3-minute ride.
You, too, can ask the Professor a parks-related question by sending him an email at Professor.Ginkgo@parks.nyc.gov .
“Sleep not, dream not; this bright day
Will not, cannot last for aye;
Bliss like thine is bought by years
Dark with torment and with tears.”