Celebrating National Merry-Go-Round aka Carousel Day!

Today, July 25th, is National Merry-Go-Round Day here in the good ole' US of A so what better time to share some of my favorites that can be found along the East Coast?

Beginning with a very non-traditional carousel, at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida, you can take a ride on the Caro-Seuss-El which is a traditional merry-go-round decked out with not-so-traditional Dr. Seuss characters like elephant birds, cowfish and more. In addition to the unique characters, riders have the power to make the character they’re riding on blink its eyes, wiggle its ears and even turn its head – the first carousel to ever do so!

Trimper’s Carousel is one of the oldest fixtures on the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland. Built in 1902 by the Herschell-Spellman Company in North Tonawanda, New York, it has been in continuous operation since its installation in 1912 making it the oldest continuously operating carousel in the nation. Featuring two tiers of elaborately carved and painted animals, riders can chose to ride on one of the carousel’s 45 animals which, in addition to the beautifully carved horses, include a cat, dog, frog, rooster, deer, goat, lion, tiger, ostrich, pig and dragon along with 3 chariots and even one rocking chair.

Originally built by the Allen Herschell Company in 1947 for the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park near Baltimore, the Carousel on the National Mall in Washington D.C. represents something of a technical achievement as it was the only carousel ever made with four horses abreast that all jumping. The carousel was moved to the National Mall in 1981 and placed in the vicinity of the Smithsonian Castle where, in addition to the 60 brightly-painted jumping horses, riders can chose from a few non-moving seats and one sea dragon which is the most popular seat on the ride.

Built by the Dentzel Carousel Company of Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1912, the ‘Gem of Glen Echo Park’ is a classic example of hand woodcarving that was popular during the early 1900s. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and installed at Glen Echo Park in Washington DC, restoration of the 1912 Dentzel Carousel was undertaken from 1983 through 2003. Called a "menagerie carousel" as it is made up of many different animals, the carousel has 40 horses, 4 rabbits, 4 ostriches, a giraffe, deer, lion, and tiger. The carousel moves to the music of a Wurlitzer band organ of which only 12 of this style are still known to exist.

The Speedwell Foundation Conservation Carousel at the National Zoo in Washington DC is one of the only solar-powered carousels in the world making use of 162 solar panels which divert any excess energy back to Zoo’s electrical grid. The carousel features 58 hand-carved and hand-painted animals for visitors to ride; many represent endangered species that reflect some of the world’s great conservation success stories while other animals are still in a race to be saved. All proceeds from the carousel support animal care and conservation science initiatives at the National Zoo.

A highlight of New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park, Jane’s Carousel was built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1922. Featuring a classic 3-row setup with 48 carved horses and two elaborate chariots, the carousel was formerly known as the Idora Park Merry-Go-Round until given new life after being saved at an auction by Jane Walentas in 1984. Open year-round, the carousel is located in a specially built glass house in sight of the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Empire State Carousel located at the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, New York is built on a vintage 1947 36-foot Alan Herschell carousel mechanism and based entirely on the history and culture of New York State. Created over the course of two decades by over 1,000 volunteer carvers, quilters, painters and woodworkers from across the state, the carousel’s 23 riding animals represent animals indigenous to New York and, among others, include Bucky Beaver – the first animal carved for the carousel - and Percy Pig who carries a bag of full of pennies representing those donated by children and their families to bring him to life. The carousel’s Mighty & Magnificent Military Band Organ was custom-made in 1990 by the Stinson Organ Company of Ohio and features carvings of New York musicians George M. Cohen, John Philip Sousa and Irving Berlin.

Located in Greenport Village, Long Island in the town’s waterfront Mitchell Park, the Greenport Carousel is a portable classic wood carousel that was built in 1920 by the Herschell-Spillman Company in North Tonawanda, New York. One of only 13 in the United States, the carousel was donated to the town by the Northrop-Grumman Corporation in 1995 and opened to the public on June 29, 2001. Housed in a specially built glass pavilion, the antique carousel also features a recreated 1919 Wurlitzer 105 Military Band Organ and the chance for riders to grab the brass ring to win a free ride.

Hartford, Connecticut's Bushnell Park is home to a 1914 Stein and Goldstein carousel – one of only three left in existence. Solomon Stein and Harry Goldstein came to the United States in the late 1800s from Russia to carve carousel horses for Coney Island which, at the height of the carousel craze, boasted two dozen carousels. Stein and Goldstein horses are distinguished by their flamboyance, big teeth, bulging eyes and the huge and colorful cabbage roses which festoon their real horse hair tails and bodies.

The Slater Park Looff Carousel in Pawtucket, Rhode Island is the oldest Looff “stander carousel” in the world. The horses don’t move up and down so it really allows the carousel to fly! Built by German master carver Charles I.D. Looff who immigrated to the United States in 1870, the 1895 carousel was originally located in a carnival in upstate New York before being installed in Slater Park in 1910. Flying to the sounds of a functioning North Tonawanda Military band organ, riders can choose from 44 horses, 2 chariots or 6 menagerie animals including 1 lion, camel, giraffe or one of 3 dogs which are very rare on a carousel.

Another beautiful Charles I.D. Looff Carousel is the Crescent Park Carousel located in Riverside, Rhode Island. Built in 1895 and installed at Crescent Park Amusent Park, the ride’s 50-foot platform contains 61 horses, 2 single coaches, 2 double chariots, and one camel. Fifty-six of the horses are jumpers and it’s one of the few carousels left in the country where riders can earn a free ride by grabbing a brass ring. Music is provided by an Andreas Ruth und Sohn Style 38 band organ imported from Waldkirch, Germany. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the carousel is among the finest and least-altered of Looff’s surviving carousels of which there are less than a dozen.

Ending with another non-traditional carousel as far as the lack of horses go, the Greenway Carousel at the Tiffany & Co. Foundation Grove in Boston, Massachusetts opened to the public on August 31, 2013 and features 14 different characters native to the land, sea and sky of Massachusetts. Inspired by the imaginations and drawings of Boston public school children, ride choices include a sea turtle, a cod, a peregrine falcon, a grasshopper, a harbor seal, a fox, a skunk, a whale, three types of butterflies, a barn owl, and a sea serpent. There are a total of 36 seats on the Greenway Carousel, considered New England’s most accessible carousel for adults and youth with physical or auditory disabilities.

National Merry-Go-Round Day was founded in 2014 by Bette Largent, President of the National Carousel Association, and carousel historian, Ronald Hopkins to commemorate the first U.S. patent issued for the modern carousel on July 25, 1871 to William Schneider of Davenport, Iowa. Also called National Carousel Day, the idea was to create a day to shine a spotlight on these beautiful, historical creations which have technically been around since the days of the Byzantine Empire - though certainly not in the form that they took during the hey-day of carousel making in the United States and that so many of us still enjoy today!


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