I was born in the town with the oldest continuously operating carousel in the U.S. (the Flying Horses of Watch Hill, Rhode Island, est 1876, above), and so you might say I have been remiss in not acknowledging National Merry-Go-Round Day ’til now. I haven’t ridden once since my kids were small, but I still love to experience them (listening to them is almost better than watching them) and New York affords ample opportunity. There are a half dozen I periodically visit, almost all of them with a connection to Coney Island and/or Brooklyn.
Of course I begin with the historic B & B Carousell (sic) of Coney Island, built ca. 1906 by the great Coney ride manufacturer William Mangels. The photo above depicts how I first knew it in the ’90s, when it was the last ride on the north side of Surf Avenue. I have fond memories of my oldest son riding it at the old location when he was but a babs. As part of the 21st century rejuvenation of Coney’s amusement district it has been refurbished and installed in modern new housing on the boardwalk next to the Parachute Jump. But I’ll always think of it as a connection to the older Coney.
Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Carousel is without a doubt the one I have visited the most in my life. I lived a five minute walk from the park, so I went by it nearly every single day for a period of eight years! I had been there many times prior to moving there too. This one was built in 1912.
Though nearly a century old, Jane’s Carousel is a relatively new addition to the Brooklyn cityscape and a symbol of its 21st century revitalization and reinvention. Built in 1922, it lived in Idora Park in Youngstown Ohio for six decades. Billionaire developers David and Jane Wallentas restored it over a period of two decades and installed it in ultra-modern glass housing at Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO in 2011. It had only been there a few months when it was swamped and surrounded by the floodwaters of Hurricane Sandy. It was a terrifying sight.
The Flushing Meadows Carousel in Queens is also a little piece of Brooklyn. It is constructed from components from two Coney Island carousels: Feltman’s (1903) and Stubbman’s (1908), and made its debut at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. It has 71 horses and a lion.
Sorry, but the Central Park Carousel is ALSO originally fron Coney Island! It lived in a trolly terminal at Coney from 1908 to the 1940s. (Coney once had as many as 20 merry-go-rounds operating simultaneously) In 1951 this one was brought to Central Park to replace three previous ones that had been there since 1871. One of the largest in the US, this one has 57 horses.
Battery Park’s SeaGlass Carousel is the only brand new one I’ll mention here, but I just love it. Like Jane’s Carousel, this one has a Hurricane Sandy connection. Battery Park was extremely hard hit by the flooding. It took months to rebuild that whole part of Lower Manhattan. As a part of the recovery project, the SeaGlass Carousel made its debut in 2015. Instead of horses, the carousel features beautifully lit fish, reminding us the fact that Battery Park was the original site of the New York Aquarium, which later moved to — you guessed it, Coney Island.