Friday, September 23, 2022

Around and Around We Go


(Images courtesy of Restore Oregon)

A decade has passed since children -- sticky fingers and all -- clambered aboard big wooden horses for their last circular rides on the Jantzen Beach Carousel.

 The 20-ton relic from the early 20th Century entertained family and children from 1928 to 1970 at the Jantzen Beach Amusement Park and then at the Jantzen Beach Mall until 2012.  Plans to return the carnival ride to a revised shopping mall were never carried out.

 Those of us in the preservation world know what happened next.  But many people don’t, and the question arises frequently on social media.  What happened to the C.W. Parker “Superior Park” model carousel?

 After five quiet years in storage, the carousel’s owner donated the deconstructed pieces in 2017 to Restore Oregon, a statewide preservation organization, in return (no doubt) for a sizable tax deduction.

 While it seemed that many potential sites loomed as new homes for the historic carousel, reality proved otherwise.  At 67 feet in diameter and standing 29 feet tall, the carousel would need a building with a clear roof span of 77 feet on a lot probably measuring 100 by 100 feet.  In short, that’s a tall order and expensive order.

 In 2020, Restore Oregon announced a potential partnership with the Portland Diamond Project, a group attempting to lure a major league baseball franchise to Portland.  The proposed site for a new stadium and the carousel was to be along a retired shipping pier on the Willamette River in Northwest Portland.


Alas, the pandemic and other problems arose.  The Diamond Project is now quietly considering other sites. Stephanie Brown, Restore Oregon’s carousel project manager, said the carousel remains part of a potential stadium plan, but she cannot reveal any details.  Given Portland’s history with professional baseball, the Diamond Project’s plans are far from a slam dunk.

In the meantime, the 82 carousel horses and two chariots have not been sitting idle.  Thanks to some aggressive fund-raising, Restore Oregon is making detailed investigations into structural problems and original paint schemes.  All the work is intended to return the carousel to optimum condition for renewed operation -- someday.  The early results are spectacular. 

The Jantzen Beach carousel will return to the public consciousness this fall with opportunities for enthusiasts to learn more about its history.  These events include:

·         Oct.7 to 9: Pop-up exhibit at the Portland Fall Home and Garden Show at the Expo Center;

·         Oct. 13: Lecture by Barbara Fahs Charles, a co-founder of the National Carousel Association, at the Architectural Heritage Center, focusing on the Jantzen carousel history;

·         Nov. 18 through April 30, 2023: Interpretive exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society.

One can hope that someday children who rode the carousel at Jantzen Beach someday will be able to enjoy it again with their children – or grandchildren, as the case may be. 

-----Fred Leeson

Join Building on History’s email list by writing “add me” to










No comments:

Post a Comment