The historic Dr. Floyd L. Moreland Dentzel-Looff Carousel, first operated in 1910, is inching its way closer to returning to a permanent home on the Seaside Heights boardwalk, though a few challenges remain to be overcome before it can whirl back to life and become an attraction once again.
The carousel was taken apart in 2021, with some pieces being placed in a commercial storage facility and others being sent to Ohio to be restored. A part of the restoration effort has been the repainting of the horses, carriages and other features that make up the attraction, which can only be completed in earnest by a single company located in Ohio. That company, which has a backlog due to the rarity of its specialty, works on one carousel at a time, and Seaside Heights’ ride has taken center stage there for some time. Recently, Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz paid a visit to the restoration facility while in Ohio for an unrelated reason. Indeed, progress has been well-made, he said, and there is a chance the carousel could be ready to be reconstructed by summer.
“Although a specific grand opening date is unknown at this time, we have a high degree of confidence that the [carousel] will be shipped back to Seaside Heights by the mid-to-end of June,” said Vaz. “Reassembly, balance testing, and state certification is expected to take 4-6 weeks.”
“Our thought was to do something on National Carousel Day, which is in July, but we’re not sure if we can line up all of the permitting in time,” he added.
New Jersey is one of the few states that requires inspections for amusement rides, and naturally the inspectors are often very busy during the summer season. Still, given the cultural significance of the effort to save the carousel from being auctioned off for parts, the construction of a state-of-the-art building in-the-round to house it and the community effort to raise funds for the project, Vaz is hoping to find a sympathetic ear in Trenton if the ride can, indeed, be returned to Seaside Heights in time. National Carousel Day is set for July 25, 2023.
Another challenge will be with the aforementioned carousel pavilion building, located on the boardwalk near Carteret Avenue. The striking building, with its signature evening glow along the boardwalk, has already been used for some events, but will ultimately house the carousel – which will be active and operating – as well as a museum portion that will tell the history of the ride and the borough as a whole. An issue that has crept up since the building was completed, however, has been water intrusion during storms when the wind blows from the northeast.
“We’ve had numerous problems since the doors went up,” said Mayor Anthony Vaz. “They’ve come back and tried to fix it, and they’ve tried to fix it again and again, and it keeps happening – but there has to be a remedy.”
At a borough council meeting Wednesday, the governing body held the building’s contractor, Epic Builders, in default of its bond placed for the project. The borough will use the funds to hire a contractor that can provide a final fix to the door system so it is sufficiently sealed.
“There has been a lot of money invested in this project, and we can’t have a flooded area,” the mayor said.
The building’s interior is also being completed in a meticulous fashion.
Last year, the borough council contracted with two consultants: Barbara Fahs Charles, a historian and graphic designer who specifically works on carousel projects, and Whitepoint Fine Art, a company that develops, designs and fabricates museum exhibits. The borough will also utilize Capitol Museum Systems for similar services. Charles notably designed the museum exhibit at the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas, Tx., the building from which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
The effort to save the carousel, which involved a land swap with Casino Pier, its former owner, has been underway for about eight years – since Casino Pier announced it would sell the carousel, either as a whole or for parts. The borough eventually entered into a barter agreement with Casino Pier, allowing them to expand the pier northward along the beach in exchange for ownership of the carousel and the oceanfront parcel of land on the boardwalk where the pavilion has since been built.