December 27, 2015

Photo Essay: The 100 Year-Old Herschell 3-Abreast Carousel, Santa Barbara (Relocated to Oregon as of 2017)

UPDATE 3/22/18 6:36 PM: As of December 2017, this attraction is permanently closed at the Chase Palm Park location. The carousel itself has been relocated to Oregon and has returned to the possession of Historic Carousels, Inc., which is planning on including the 3-abreast Herschell in its carousel museum, due to open in 2019.

Here's what I wrote upon my first and only visit a couple of years ago:

I'm interested in visiting pretty much any merry-go-round I can find...

...but of particular interest are those that are antiques as many as 100 years old... the one in Chase Palm Park in Santa Barbara.

It was one of three carousels manufactured by Allan Herschell's company between 1915 and 1917 (specifically, this one in 1916)...

...and it's one of Herschell's largest, ever.

It's was designated a national historic landmark in 2000, and it's only been in Santa Barbara since 1999.

Before that, it had been placed in storage at San Diego's Seaport Village, which had acquired it from an East Coast amusement park. (Nobody is exactly sure where or which one....)

But, they deemed the cost of restoring it too high, after its years of neglect and exposure to the elements.

Thankfully, the International Museum of Carousel Art in Oregon bought the carousel and lovingly restored it.

You have to understand, these old merry-go-rounds aren't just amusements. They're works of art—large, carved, animated sculptures.

This one has fared pretty well, though it's missing one of its 35 horses...

...and the rest of them appear to have been repainted with a thick coat of paint that may or may not be in a historically accurate color palette.

A couple of horses seem to be missing half of their wooden tails, too.

This carousel is unique because, compared to some of the other Herschell horses...

...these are relatively gentle beasts...

...and all of them—three astride—are jumpers.

Characteristic of all Herschell carousels, these horses are shod with metal cast horseshoes. Even better, they're all original.

There are also two hand-carved poplar wood chariots with double-bench seating (their cushions long-since removed), though their ornamentation is only on the front-facing side. Even so, this type of deep and intricate carving of chariots was apparently very unusual for a Herschell carousel.

Thanks to its most recent restoration, it has a new electric motor—but all of the rest of the machinery is amazingly original to its 1916 design.

This thing has survived neglect, wood rot, improper modifications, and weather, and yet it still showcases the craftsmanship of the "Golden Age" of carousel art in the U.S.—in a lovely, three minute ride that goes 'round and 'round.

Because once around is never enough.

For a really good description of why this carousel is important, and an explanation of carousel history, click here.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Wayward Carousel Horses & Other Creatures
Photo Essay: The Faces of The Santa Monica Pier Carousel

1 comment:

  1. I'm a painter and sculptor, a lifelong horse lover and owner, and I love carousels. In the late 1990s I participated with many others in the Santa Barbara, volunteering our services and goods to raise money to purchase this MAGNIFICENT masterpiece. It was beautifully restored and for years I loved looking at it, painting it, riding it with my daughter and other children and people over the years. I still grieve the day it disappeared, without any notice. Whenever I drive by the empty shell, I feel sad it's gone and just hope it's bringing joy to other people, too.