- The classic wood carousel was built in 1910 by the Herschell-Spillman company in North Tonawanda, New York, and the current owners aren't sure what month it was completed and shipped west (to an LA amusement center called Luna Park). Like the carousel's exact date of construction, the record of when it made its way south to San Diego has been lost. The 1915 Expo included a carousel, but that one may have been a Dentzel that was later moved to San Francisco. (The San Diego Union-Tribune's critic-at-large, Welton Jones, reported in a 1993 article that he'd heard this from "the national carousel grapevine.") Virginia Long, a long-time owner of the carousel, believed that an Englishman by the name of H.D. Simpson bought it from the Luna Park operators and operated it periodically both at Coronado's Tent City and in Balboa Park during the mid- to late-19-teens and the beginning of the 1920s, according to Jones' story. Unlike the merry-go-rounds designed for today's county fairs, the local Herschell-Spillman was never intended to be portable. It's what's known as a "park" carousel – meant to occupy a space on a permanent basis. By 1922, it had settled in near the site where the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center stands today. Most of its riders then were adults, passing the time while waiting for one of the trolleys that ran through the park back then. The Balboa Park carousel stands out in other ways. It's one of only a handful that's been honored with a Historic Carousel Award by the National Carousel Association. The military band organ (similar to a player piano) near its center can still be coaxed into emitting jolly carousel music, though the antique music sheets read by the device tend to jam when the weather isn't just right. (Music CDs do the job at other times.) The Balboa Park carousel is also one of only about a dozen carousels in the world that still tantalyzes riders with a brass ring. (Snatching it successfully earns the snatcher a free ride.) Because of the advantage conferred by their height, the ride's giraffes tend to be favored by clever children. The "lead horse," decorated with roses, has been a perennial favorite of little girls, while little boys often make a dash for the lion. But the on-board menagerie (which was hand-carved by European craftsmen who were paid $2 for a 10-hour workday) includes something for every taste: 12 12 jumping horses, 15 standing ones, a camel, 2 dogs and 2 cats, a dragon, 2 frogs, 2 giraffes, a goat, 2 mules, 2 ostriches, 2 pigs, 2 roosters, 1 tiger, 2 zebras, 3 chariots, and the stork and lion.
- The description was provided by Jeannette M. De Wyze
- Park Blvd & Zoo Pl, San Diego, CA 92104, USA
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