Carousels in Prospect Park
A series of carousels has attracted visitors to the park since 1874. The first was located in the area known today as the Rose Garden. In 1885 it was moved to the picnic area on the west side of the Long Meadow. This carousel and its successor burned down and in 1952 the current incarnation, sporting horses by master carver Charles Carmel, was moved from Coney Island to its present spot near the Willink Entrance.
Carmel and Carousels
Of the 6,000 carousels constructed in the United States during the golden age of carnivals in the early part of the 20th century, only 200 remain intact. The Prospect Park Carousel is one of them. The artfully crafted animals were carved in 1912 by Charles Carmel, who trained in Coney Island under the most renowned carousel artists of the time. With a shop located on Ocean Parkway near the Prospect Park Horse Stables, his frequent observance of the local horses contributed to the life-like quality of his artwork. Carmel’s imaginative rendering of a running horse’s spirited expression and flowing mane, accompanied by flamboyant tassels and feathers, became the standard for carousel design. One of only twelve remaining Carmel designs, the Carousel was moved from its original Coney Island home to its current location in 1952. The Carousel whirled from 1952 until 1983, when, lacking sufficient funds for much-needed repair and maintenance, the Carousel stopped spinning for the first time in over 70 years, reopening in 1990 after extensive restoration.
The Carousel was closed in 1983 due to mechanical problems and severe deterioration. In 1987, the Prospect Park Alliance was founded with the goal of restoring and preserving the Park and all its features. As its first project, the Alliance raised $800,000 for the renovation of this impressive piece of Brooklyn history. The original radiance of the Carousel’s colors was restored by nationally known carousel artist and conservator Will Morton VIII. Broken parts were fixed, new parts were carved and 20 layers of paint were removed to reveal the original colors. Two historic paintings were uncovered on the Wurlitzer Band Organ, which was also repaired. Also added were 60 renderings of Brooklyn and Prospect Park done by Morton and based on old photographs and a mermaid statue found in Coney Island. Ornamented with brass and 1,000 lights, the Carousel returned to its former glory in October 1990.
In 2001, the Carousel received a new roof and other repairs with funds raised by the Alliance through the 2000 Carousel Ball, a gala event which kicked off the horse adoption and grooming program to secure funding for future maintenance.
Click here to see the Carousel today.