The historic Dentzel-Looff carousel in Seaside Heights won’t be spinning this year, but the first of several phases of repairs and renovations are already underway to make sure the attraction, built in 1910, will last for generations to come.
Last week, the borough council announced it was seeking bids for the disassembly of the caroulse, which is currently located in a boardwalk arcade owned by Casino Pier. The borough swapped a plot of land for the carousel and a property on the boardwalk that had been owned by the pier. That property, on the northern end of the boardwalk, is where the town is hoping to build a museum and new home for the carousel. It has also been considered to house a banquet or meeting facility.
The repairs on the attraction have already begun.
“We moved the band organ to the company that is going to basically renovate it and make it working again,” said Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz. “It hasn’t been functioning, it was shut it off, and we’re going to fix it.”
The bigger project is the multi-step process of disassembling the carousel itself, moving it to a storage facility, then restoring it and transporting it back to the boardwalk.
“It has to be set up a certain way because there are a lot of pieces,” said Vaz, who added the most likely scenario would be for the carousel to be moved to a large warehouse facility in an industrial park (or somewhere similar) in order to allow repairs to be completed.
In the mean time, Casino Pier has granted Seaside Heights permission to continue to keep the ride in its building. Casino Pier announced in 2013 that it would either sell the ride in whole or for parts because it was not generating sufficient revenue. The land swap agreement was hatched in the years that followed and was approved in 2016.
“It will be non-operational for the summer,” Vaz said. “We’re not going to spin it, and we may even be doing various pieces of taking it apart over the summer, depending on the bid.”
Vaz said the number of people qualified to complete repairs on historic carousels, and it appears only one person’s company may be willing to take on the project.
“He’s thinking he may not even get into Seaside Heights until the fall,” said Vaz.
As plans to restore the carousel become more organized, its future home is still something of a question. It will not be able to return to Casino Pier’s property once the repairs are completed, and the borough – still stung by a tax base that has yet to fully recover from Superstorm Sandy – has needed state assistance in recent years to meet its operating budget. Officials are not keen on adding more debt or making any large expenditures, so the construction of the museum building may be scaled down from previous renderings that have been proposed. Seaside Heights will also seek $1.5 million from the state to go toward the project.
“The cost was over $3 million,” Vaz said, of the original rendering that was proposed. “We’re looking for something less expensive, but it also has to be of a certain size.”
Vaz said the state, itself, is considering new regulations that could add costs to the project, such as specialized doors to allow outside air to circulate in order to comply with Green Acres mandates.
“We’ve applied for the CAFRA permits for the new property, to build a building,” said Vaz. “Hovering over us, of course, is how we’re paying for it.”