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State Pledges $750K in Matching Grant Funding to Preserve Historic Seaside Heights Carousel

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The historic Dentzel-Looff carousel in Seaside Heights. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
The historic Dentzel-Looff carousel in Seaside Heights. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

New Jersey will match up to $750,000 in funding toward a new home for Seaside Heights’ historic 1910 Dentzel-Looff carousel, which is currently being restored.

The borough acquired the carousel and a plot of boardwalk-facing land from Casino Pier in exchange for land on which the pier could expand its rides. The carousel was either going to be sold in whole or far parts by the company, but a groundswell of public outcry led Seaside Heights officials to hammer out a deal with the Storino family, which owns the pier. While the carousel will ultimately be housed on the plot of land that was included in the swap (it is currently an undeveloped parking lot), the building in which it will operate has not yet been funded.

Earlier this summer, Seaside Heights officials formed a formal Historical Society that would have the power to fundraise and solicit institutional donations that will go toward the construction of a building to house the ride. The state recently said it would match up to $750,000 provided by the borough – whether it is raised through the society or funded by tax dollars. Varying proposals have been made for the building, ranging from a modest structure and small museum, to a larger museum with a banquet hall. Regardless, the cost of construction is a luxury item in a town whose ratable base has not yet fully recovered from Superstorm Sandy. Hence, the push to fundraise.

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“We’re going to be looking at institutions to give money, historical societies, possibly wealthy entrepreneurs who have a liking for this kind of thing,” said Mayor Anthony Vaz.

The borough heard from supporters across the country when news broke that the historic attraction – which will still operate as a ride once it is restored and re-assembled – could be dismantled and sold off for parts. The mayor said he hopes some of those same people consider donating to give the carousel a new home.

A proposed museum that will house a historic carousel on the Seaside Heights boardwalk. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
A proposed museum that will house a historic carousel on the Seaside Heights boardwalk. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

“There has been so much enthusiasm,” Vaz said. “I’m hoping that these same people might say, I’ll give $10, it’s a worthy cause.”

The borough is also seeking to emulate other efforts across the country to preserve historic amusement rides.

“We’re not the first community in the United States to preserve a carousel,” said Vaz. “Other states and cities have done it, so we’re kind of going by what they did.”