In the United States, the golden age of carousels lasted roughly from 1880 to 1925 and generated more than 3,000 of the enchantingly colorful and musical rides — of which only about 150 have survived. Ohio, in fact, is a wellspring of whirligigs: home to numerous historic carousels, as well as modern ones that flaunt figures with a decidedly local spin — like an Ohio State University horse. It’s also home to a leading merry-go-round manufacturer, Carousels and Carvings in Marion, which repairs, restores, and creates entire carousels.
Since July 25 is National Carousel Day, we’ve assembled a sampling of Ohio’s carousels. These timeless attractions are poetry in motion and fun for young and old alike.
Amusement parks often brag about possessing one classic carousel, so how special is it that Cedar Point owns three? Built in 1912, the Midway Carousel (shown at left) is Cedar Point’s oldest operating ride. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and offers 60 horses that are rare examples of master carver Daniel Muller’s handiwork. Also on the National Register, Kiddy Kingdom Carousel, created in the 1920s by William Dentzel, includes the exquisite king-armored horse that was selected for a U.S. postage stamp. Cedar Downs is one of only two working racing derby carousels in the United States. Made by Prior and Church in 1920, it features 64 dashing steeds atop a giant turntable.
Saluting iconic Dayton businesses and the city’s “Birthplace of Aviation” reputation, the carousel at Carillon Historical Park delivers a ride like no other. Its clever figures include Orville Wright’s beloved Saint Bernard, Scipio; a Huffy bicycle; an NCR cash register; and a box of Esther Price candy.
Originally manufactured by the W.F. Mangels Company in 1914, this restored carousel features 53 horses originally carved by Marcus Illions (aka “the Michelangelo of carousel carvers”). It has a prime location near the zoo’s Manatee Coast and beckons riders with the nostalgic sound of its Wurlitzer 153 band organ.
Though Euclid Beach closed decades ago, its 1910 Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel (aka PTC No. 19) whirls on inside a pavilion at the Cleveland History Center. The carousel’s ornate horses have been restored to their original glory, and its hand-painted panels showcase Terminal Tower, the West Side Market, and other local scenes.
In 1975, George Stoiber purchased a wooden 1917 Allan Herschell carousel and made it a downtown Put-in-Bay attraction named for his baby daughter. Kim Stoiber Morrison now operates the carousel, whose ever-popular Petey the Perch has delighted generations of South Bass Island tourists.
The Allan Herschell carousel with 30 hand-painted horses has captivated Cleveland families since 1952, when Stuart Wintner opened Memphis Kiddie Park in suburban Brooklyn. Today, it’s operated by Russell Wintner, who, fittingly enough, was born on the day his dad installed the ride’s horses.
Sandusky’s former post office provides a handsome setting for displays of 70 carousel animals dating to 1890. Visitors can ride a 1939 Allan Herschel carousel outfitted with horses from numerous carvers. The lead horse is “Stargazer,” a circa 1915 C.W. Parker specimen whose noble head stretches toward the sky.
When it opened in downtown Mansfield in 1991, Richland Carrousel Park featured the first hand-carved carousel built and operated in the United States since the 1930s. The site’s 52 horses and menagerie figures — including a mythical hippocampus — mimic the style of pioneering carousel carver Gustav Dentzel.
The botanical garden that Otto Schoepfle founded in the 1930s became Lorain County Metro Park with a one-of-a-kind carousel in its Children’s Garden. Reflecting Schoepfle’s interests, the garden is musically themed, and the 1960s Theel carousel’s animals feature painted flowers — including petunias, asters, and daisies — that can be found on the grounds.
The nation’s only indoor, all-African-animals carousel debuted in 2003. It’s near the Safari Railway and has 42 figures — including a mandrill, giraffe, and leopard — representing more than 20 different species.