Turn-of-the-Century Carousel Considered as City Landmark [UPDATE: Carousel Designated as a “compelling artifact of an earlier era”]

The Forest Park Carousel in Forest Park, Queens. Image Credit: LPC.

The Forest Park Carousel in Forest Park, Queens. Image Credit: LPC.

See below for update.

Forest Park Carousel is one of two remaining examples of the work of German immigrant wood-carver. On June 11, 2013, the Landmarks Preservation Commission held a hearing on the potential designation of the Forest Park Carousel in Queens’ Forest Park as an individual City landmark. The original carousel at the site burned in 1966. The current carousel, built in 1903, was located and purchased from a Connecticut architect in 1971. The carousel again closed in 1985, and was restored in 1990. Murals by Queens artist Jonathan Lev were added in 2002.

All but three of the carousel’s 52 figures are believed to have been carved by the Philadelphia-based wood-carver Daniel Muller. A German immigrant, Muller trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and is thought to have crafted figures for twelve carousels in his lifetime, of which the Forest Park Carousel is one of only two that remain. The other remaining carousel is in Cedar Point, Ohio.

John Krawchuk, Director of Historic Preservation for the City’s Department of Parks & Recreation, voiced support for the proposed Landmarking. He added to Landmarks’ description by noting that the carousel was originally commissioned in Lowell, Massachusetts. Krawchuk called the carousel “a treasured amenity” that has entertained generations. He further noted that operation of the carousel had recently been awarded to a new concessionaire, who appreciated the ride’s history and aesthetics, and planned work to “enliven” the site, and treat it as “a major historical attraction.”

carousel ticket LG

The Society for the Architecture of the City’s Christabel Gough, testified in support and called the carousel “a revolving menagerie of early 20th-century woodcarvings.” The Historic Districts Council’s Nadezhda Williams stated that, if designated, the carousel would join Coney Island’s Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone in the unique category of individual landmarks that also functioned as operating amusement rides. Council Member Elizabeth Crowley said that the preservation was in the community’s best interest, and called the carousel “different from any other object or building.”

Chair Robert B. Tierney noted that the Commission had received letters in favor of designation from, among others, the Queens Preservation Council, Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation, the Rego-Forest Preservation Council, and Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall. Tierney read a letter from former council member and chair of the Land Use Committee Melinda Katz, who had long been an advocate for the carousel’s preservation, which called the ride a “beautiful, entertaining attraction in Forest Park since 1973.”

No date has been set by Landmarks for a vote on designation.

Update (6/26/13): The Carousel came before Landmarks again on June 25, 2013 for a vote on designation. Chair Tierney noted that the carousel was a very different type of structure than the vast majority of individual landmarks, and the commission entered into the consideration carefully. Tierney determined however, that the unique qualities of the carousel merited the exceptional step, and recommended a vote for designation. Commissioner Fred Bland found the carousel to represent an “extraordinary historical connection with the past,” as did Commissioner Michael Goldblum, who called it “a completely compelling artifact of an earlier era.” Commissioner Michael Devonshire found the carousel to be “a work of art,” and commended Parks for their support of designation and willingness to maintain the landmark.

Commissioners voted unanimously to designate the carousel.

LPC: Forest Park Carousel, Forest Park, Queens (LP-2528) (June 11, 2013).

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