As the park spins by and the calliope tootles, it is easy to imagine yourself at a country fair miles outside the urban confines of New York City. The original park carousel opened in 1871 and was powered by a blind mule and a horse who walked a treadmill in an underground pit. It almost immediately became one of the park’s most popular attractions and remains so to this day, with almost 250,000 riders a year. Originally the park commissioners had frowned upon commercial enterprises in the Park, but they eventually saw the popular attractions as valuable assets. They also recognized income that the city earned on the carousel’s operation as a welcome source of needed revenue.
The current carousel, the fourth to exist on this site, was built in 1951 thanks to a contribution by the Michael Firedsam Foundation. It was discovered after an exhaustive search by the Parks Department, abandoned in an old trolley terminal on Coney Island. One of the country’s largest merry-go-rounds, it features fifty-eight hand-carved, brightly caparisoned horses and two ornate chariots. Wonderful examples of folk art, they were made by Solomon Stein and Harry Goldstein in 1908.
Around the turn of the century a steam-powered carousel replaced the animal-powered original, to the relief of animal lovers everywhere. That carousel was destroyed by fire in 1924, as was the subsequent model in 1950. Further renovation was made in 1982 with a donation from Alan and Katherine Stroock “in return for many happy go rounds.”
Visitors will want to check out the wrought iron fence that surrounds the open Carousel sides; small, brightly-painted horses are depicted on a band around the fence.
Location: Mid-Park at 64th Street
Details: $2 for a 3 and a half minute ride.
Open daily April–November, 10:00am-6:00pm, weather permitting
Open weekends November-April 10:00am-4:30pm, weather permitting
Information : 212 439 6900
Note : The Carousel will be under the temporary control of Wollman Rink until the end of October, 2010.