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History of the Bushnell Park Carousel

History of the Bushnell Park Carousel:  THE JEWEL IN DOWNTOWN HARTFORD


It’s a sweet surprise to find a vintage 1914 carousel standing in Bushnell Park. There, by the shadow of skyscrapers and a giant Turkey Oak, a 24-sided pavilion houses 48 hand-carved wooden horses and two lovers’ chariots that swirl around a booming Wurlitzer band organ. Turning 100 years old in 2014, this Carousel maintains the past, while the future buds all around it.


For just $2.00, you get a 3 1/2 minute ride that can blur your worries, trick you into feeling young and enlarge the eyes of even the widest-eyed youngster. The Knox Foundation brought the carousel to Hartford from Canton, Ohio, in 1974. Jack Dollard, director of the Foundation at the time, thought the horses would symbolize Hartford’s restoration.


The New England Carousel Museum received the contract to manage the Bushnell Park Carousel in 1999 and began work to fully restore the Carousel in time for her 100th birthday celebration in 2014.  Work on the horses is continuous, and you can see the progress as you the carousel swirls. Currently, this carousel is only one of three left Stein & Goldstein carousels left operating in this country.

They, like many carousel craftsmen, started in Russia as carvers of women’s hair combs. They came to the United States in the late 1800s to carve carousel horses for Coney Island, which at the height of the Golden Age, from 1880 to 1930, had some 17 carousels operating.  Stein and Goldstein horses are big passionate animals with their eyes wide, their nostrils flared and in some circumstances their tongues sticking out.  Huge and colorful cabbage roses festoon their bodies and they have real horse hair tails


Eventually, they built a reputation as “artistic carousel manufacturers” and they built carousels when there were at least 3,000 in the United States, when riders on the outside row reached for the brass rings. A ride was considered a dare because 15 mph was faster than anything until the invention of the roller coaster gave carousels a more romantic reputation–and fewer riders.


Every year thousands of riders take the dare and go for the thrill of riding on Hartford’s magnificent and historic Stein and Goldstein carousel.  It is a magical experience.



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