Thursday Doors – Bushnell Park Carousel

CarouselThe Bushnell Park Carousel is going to be 102 years old this year. It’s a wonderful piece of history and it seems that it’s almost a miracle that it stands today in Hartford’s preeminent park.

The carousel isn’t a Hartford native. Rumor has it that it was originally constructed in Albany, NY. The records aren’t entirely clear on that, but at some point in the 1940s it was moved to Canton, Ohio and in 1974 it was purchased and moved to Hartford to be part of the city’s renaissance. I’m not sure that renaissance ever took place, or that it played out the way city planners hoped it would, but the Carousel has been operating ever since.

I moved to Hartford in 1981. I have experienced the carousel with my wife and we took our daughter there back in the 1980s when the Hartford Civic Center was still somewhat of a shopping destination.

Hartford may be flirting with a new renaissance. Shopping has long since migrated to the suburbs and the Internet. Many members of Hartford’s bedrock insurance industry have also moved out of the city, but Hartford seems poised to become a center of education, recreation and cultural attractions. These are things that I think Hartford can do well, and things with which I don’t think the suburbs can compete.

Recent activity, not to mention future Thursday Doors posts, include a renovation and expansion of the Wadsworth Athenaeum, one of America’s first art museums, the renovation of the Old Connecticut State House, the construction of the University Connecticut’s Hartford campus, the construction of Dunkin Donuts Field, future home of the Hartford Yard Goats – I’m not making that up, but then again, that project is currently mired in delays and finger-pointing. Oh, I almost forgot, the renovation and expansion of the Bushnell Park Carousel.

For its 100th birthday, the city gave the carousel some heat along with the addition of a pavilion so the facility can be used for parties, meetings and events; and can be used year-round. Of course, the most important thing to remember is that this carousel is one of only three Stein and Goldstein carousels, hand-carved and built by Russian immigrants Solomon Stein and Harry Goldstein, still operating in the United States. At a time when wealthy collectors would rather buy up the horses for their personal displays, to have the 48 horses still in motion in Hartford is a huge deal.

This post is part of Norm Frampton’s interesting and fun Thursday Doors weekly blogfest. If you want to join us, all you need is a door. Visit Norm’s page, link up or at least view all the other doors.

About Dan Antion

Husband, father, woodworker, cyclist, photographer, geek - oh wait, I’m writing this like I only have 140 characters. I am all those things, and more, and all of these passions present me with opportunities to observe, and think about things that I can’t write about in other places. I have started this blog to catch the stuff that falls out, overflows and just plain doesn’t fit the other containers in my life.
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80 Responses to Thursday Doors – Bushnell Park Carousel

  1. reocochran says:

    I really like Carrousels. But hey, we had this in Canton and you got it from us? :( Just teasing, Connecticut and New England itself are sources of history and delight, Dan. I liked the sculpture, too! :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      This early history of this carousel is sketchy, but yeah, they think it went from Albany to Canton and it’s clear that we got it from Canton in 1974. I would have thought that in the early 70s there would have been some upset people in Ohio. We also have a carousel museum nearby, but I’ve never been. The sculpture is one that I really like, and of course, I like reflections, so…

      Like

  2. A great history lesson, Dan, but can’t help and think that the carousel looks kinda creepy to me. Maybe it’s because your photos don’t show any signs of life? Nevertheless, I’m sure it is very beautiful in the flesh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      I think without people Hugh, carousels are kind of creepy. I can picture them in several horror movies, Twilight Zone episodes, etc. Along with fun houses, hoses of mirrors and midway barkers, I think they fit the creepy bill (and don’t get me started on clowns). I hope to revisit some of these places during the year when they are active.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Bob Zagami says:

    If the city is serious about restoring this amazing treasure, they should get in touch with Dan Jones at The Carousel Works (www.carouselworks.com) in Mansfield, OH. Dan started his business in Connecticut and has built the largest custom hand carved carousel business in the country. I met Dan about twenty years ago when he hand cared the carousel horse that sits in our house today, a remarkable copy of a Marcus Illions stander. Illions was a master carver who was born in Lithuania and came to America in 1888. The Carousel Works restores vintage carousels and also carves new carousels in the classic style and methodology of the old masters. We’ve studied carousels and carousel art for years. So if we were having a beer . . . . .

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dan Antion says:

      Wow! Thanks for that information Bob. The Carousel and the horses were restored after moving here in 1974. I think this time the project was more of an expansion of the building. They seem to have matched the architectural element very well. I’ll look up the Carousel Works, that’s sound very interesting.

      Like

    • marianallen says:

      I LOVE Mansfield! We had a great time there, touring the Carousel Works and seeing their town carousel, which is very similar in presentation to the Hartford one.

      Like

      • rwzagami says:

        Did you get a chance to meet Dan Jones and his daughter? When we moved to a new house about eight years ago we took our horse back to Mansfield and they stripped it down and repainted it to match our new color schemes. His daughter did the painting on our horse, then they personally delivered it back to Hudson, MA when they were done.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. rwzagami says:

    Forgot to mention The Carousel Works also has a Facebook page where you can follow their many projects and see their outstanding work.

    Like

  5. rwzagami says:

    Guess I need a second cup of coffee: https://www.facebook.com/Carousel-Works-220025225632/

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Norm 2.0 says:

    Carrousels are always fun, good post Dan and hey, Go Yard Goats!! :-D

    Liked by 1 person

  7. GP Cox says:

    You found nostalgia and beauty all rolled up in one!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. rwzagami says:

    Interesting note, The National Carousel Association’s January 2016 newsletter features the Bushnell Carousel. See the newsletter here: http://carousels.org/index.html

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Dan, I enjoyed reading the history behind this and all stories of renovation and rebirth in cities make me happy. We love carousels and when our girls were little, they rode one in Mesa, Arizona, as well as one in Buffalo, Wyoming.

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

  10. joannesisco says:

    I like the idea that this has been lovingly preserved and continues to be made available to the public :)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. You hit home with this one, Dan. I’m a big fan of carousels and this one is really great. In fact I always wish to get one horse from a carousel in my home!!!!
    There is a lovely one in San Francisco and of course in Paris too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Evelyne. If you look up at the comment(s) by Bob Zagami, he has information on a place where you can have one carved for you. He sent me some pictures of the one they had carved and it’s beautiful.

      Like

  12. dimlamp says:

    Hartford Yard Goats? very interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Apparently, a reference to our “rich railroad history” – The Yard Goat was the small engine that moved cars around in the rail yard. Of course, the stadium is $10 million short, and nobody wants to cough up the money, so who knows where this is heading now.

      Like

  13. marianallen says:

    What a beautiful building, and beautiful carousel! There used to be a super one in Louisville, Kentucky, at Fountain Ferry Park. All gone, now. All gone, but not forgotten.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I love the old carousels too. This one looks great and probably would be among favorites were I nearer to ride it. My three favorites are in San Francisco,’s Golden Gate Park, Santa Cruz Boardwalk, and one really close to home in Los Gatos at Oakmeadow Park. I’m starting all over again taking #1 Grandson to these Carousels.
    My son has ridden the Carousel in Kennywood! Although he probably doesn’t remember that. He was 8 then.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. bikerchick57 says:

    I love cultural renovation in any city. I much prefer that to shopping malls.

    What a fun place, the carousel! It’s one of two rides (the other a ferris wheel) that I can get on without the motion sickness kicking in. To have such an exquisite and rare carousel is a big bonus for Hartford and the renovation.

    I would take a ride on those horses regularly, if I were you. Kick up the heels, live a little.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      I think that’s a good idea. I’m rarely in the city when it’s operating, or I would have taken some video from a moving horse :) I’m going to get back in, during warmer weather to update some of the photos I’ve taken in the wee hours of the morning. This is a big deal for the city. I hope they can keep these projects all moving ahead, I think it’s the only thing that can help the city flourish.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. The carousel would be a great location for children’s birthday parties. I love it when areas of cities are repurposed and reclaimed. Many run down areas of San Francisco were taken back and refurbished. The same with LA. Parts of the LA downtown are now a new artists’ section.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Paul says:

    Good selection, Dan. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that I immediately thought of the carousel from the Twilight Zone episode “Walking Distance,” which epitomizes Martin Sloan’s fond memories of his childhood and his deep longing to go back to his carefree childhood. Appropriately enough, the carousel that inspired Rod Serling to write that episode is also in New York state.

    You have some very nice shots here, including the one of the pond and fountain, but my favorite is the last one. I find the carnival lettering and imagery very appealing. Another winning entry in this series, I must say …

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Paul. I thought of Walking Distance too. How many times can I add “it’s one of my favorites…” Oh well. there are so many. In the comment above about the building looking a little creepy, I though of all the times amusement parks are used as creepy settings. Of course that immediately brings Perchance to Dream to mind. I like that last photo, but when I first got to the park that day, it was still pretty dark and that’s a little hard to walk up to in the dark.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. jan says:

    Nice to hear that Hartford is having a revival – that’s where my parents met.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      That’s pretty cool. It is where my wife and I met, and I put her on that carousel while we were dating. I don’t know how many people would agree about the term ‘revival’ but I think this will eventually be seen as a turning point period in Hartford’s history. They need to have reasons for people to come into the city. I will definitely go for a ball game and to see the museums and the carousel, so they need to do more stuff like this. And, if they could lower the murder rate, that might help too ;)

      Like

  19. joey says:

    I really love the photo with the reflections. Did you do some high-tech editing, or did it just turn out like that? Either way, it’s a neat pic.
    I used to love riding carousels. We have one in the children’s museum, next to the enormous train set…
    But anyway, no stranger to carousels, I last went on one in 2007 in The Savannah Mall. Mercy. No. I no can do carousels anymore. I was sick for hours. lol
    I still send the kids off, and I wave at them, and at the giraffes I miss riding :) Carousels are beautiful, magical things :)
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      I’m glad you like the reflections. No fancy editing. I was there before it opened and I had to shoot through the glass panes in the doors. I was trying to shade the lens from light with one hand and shoot with the other. It worked a few times, but not often. Is it the up and down horses or just anything that is moving that bothers you? They are magical, I’m glad you liked the post.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. There are doors, and then there are doors leading to carousel horses. Oh my, I am impressed and hope to remember that the next time we get close to Hartford. I don’t think you ever get too old to appreciate a carousel and its handsome horses. Thank you, Dan. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  21. rwzagami says:

    And don’t forget the New England Carousel Museum in Bristol, CT. Another great place for corporate events and parties. Lots of carousel history down there. http://thecarouselmuseum.org/

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Beautiful. I think the idea of year round use is genius. Nothing lonelier than a carousel in the snow.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Joanne Corey says:

    Thank you for sharing your carousel with us! Carousels are special to us here in Broome County, NY, home to six wooden carousels from the 1920s and ’30s. They were gifts to the parks from George F. Johnson (of Endicott Johnson shoes) with the proviso that they always remain free of charge. They aren’t in heated pavilions, though, so they are open Memorial Day through Labor Day only.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Wendy Brydge says:

    Your photos are fantastic, Dan. I can’t say that I’ve ever been too fond of carousels myself. They’re wonderful to looks at, sure, but actually going on them has never been my thing. Whether they’re lit up and running or closed down and dark, there is just something so creepy about them! Probably that music. O_o But I will tell you a secret — a part of me has always wanted to design and paint carousel horses! Some of them are just the most amazing works of art.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      The music and “Walking Distance” and horror movies where someone was being chased through an amusement park while that Wurlitzer Organ was playing in the background :)

      It’s OK, Wendy. It was actually a little creepy taking these photos before the sun was fully up. I will admit that I was looking around a bit.

      the horses are beautiful. It would make a fun project.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Debra says:

    How nice that this little bit of history and beauty is still around. I’ve always loved the look of carousels.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. jolynnpowers says:

    I going to see this if I ever make it to Hartford… it would be a dream come true for a horse loving family like mine!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks JoLynn. You are closer to an even nicer one. The Carousel at Kennywood (outside of Pittsburgh) has three rows of jumping horses and on row of stationary ones. It’s huge! However, we have another one like this at Lake Compunce in CT (which is owned by Kennywood) and we havea Carousel Museum in Bristol, CT

      Liked by 1 person

  27. I used to take my daughter to that carousel, also in the 80’s, Dan. It’s good to hear Hartford is experiencing a renaissance. I worked there for a number of years, and it was dying a long death back then. I remember going there for an event on a Sunday and not being able to find an open restaurant. Hartford has great potential, I’m glad things are moving again. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I love that carousel – a true local treasure. My favorite though is The Flying Horses in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. It’s one where you can “get the brass ring” and the horses are stationary and have manes and tails of real horse hair (just in case you haven’t been there). It’s not as traditionally pretty as the one in Bushnell Park but it holds great family memories for us from our summer vacations there. And seriously…the Yard Goats? Can you believe it? I wish they had done something with “Colts” but all of the gun control peeps probably would have had a hard time with that. Even though it is probably one of the most important things about Hartford’s history.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      I’ve not been to Martha’s Vineyard or very many traditional New England destinations. If I get there, I’ll look that up. Yard Goats wasn’t my fav but I’m going to try to support the team (if they get the stadium built). Colt would have been a good choice. At least they didn’t focus on insurance.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Very true! I’m not a big baseball fan and didn’t go to see the RockCats, but I may just have to check the Yard Goats out once or twice – just for something to do in Hartford!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Dan Antion says:

          I think if Hartford can draw people in from the suburbs, it would be good for everyone. I’ve been to a few RockCats games. They were fun, but getting and and out of that stadium was a nightmare. I am looking so forward to being able to take a light rail ride from Windsor Locks into Hartford for a ballgame. It’s not that far off.

          Liked by 1 person

  29. rwzagami says:

    You can see a list of all operating carousels, and their history, here: http://carousels.org/NCAcensus.html

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Peter Nena says:

    What is that thing in the pond and fountain photo? Looks amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. I believe if I ever come there I might never want to return to India again. Loved the park and the carousel.

    Liked by 1 person

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