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MMD > Archives > March 2001 > 2001.03.25 > 01Prev  Next

Looff Carousel at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
By Julie Porter

Here is a press release that may interest MMD readers.  The link is
at   If you look
through the MMD Archives there are a number of references to it.

Julie Porter

  [ See  -- Robbie

 - - -

For Release: Carousel Circles For 90 Years

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk's oldest ride is also one of its most
charming, a special jewel among classic amusement rides.

In 2001, the Boardwalk's Looff carousel celebrates its 90th anniversary
at the historic amusement park, bringing magic to children of all ages.

It was August of 1911 when one of the great carousel carvers of all
time delivered a shimmering new merry-go-round to the Boardwalk.
European woodcarver Charles I.D. Looff had made a success with his
first complete carousel placed at Coney Island in 1875 and then went on
to create several more around the country, including the one in Santa

According to his great-granddaughter, Charleen Cowan, Charles I.D.
Looff was an immigrant to America as a young man when he chose his
middle initials.  Ellis Island officials told Looff he had to have a
middle name "for his I.D." (or identification), so he chose "I.D.".

Looff's sense of humor and personality show in his hand-carved horses.
Several of the Boardwalk's carousel horses display their teeth in open
smiles; others are more serious, with a gentle demeanor and closed
mouths.  Each horse is unique, with colorful details, from swords at
their sides to garlands of flowers around their necks. Real horse hair
tails, muscular bodies, and decorative, jeweled trappings also add to
the charm. In all, the carousel is home to 73 horses (71 jumpers and
two standers) and two Roman chariots decorated with the heads of rams
and cherubs.

It is also one of only a handful of carousels in the world still
featuring a working brass ring dispenser, although the rings are now
all steel.

Music for the carousel is provided by a 342-pipe Ruth und Sohn band
organ built in 1894. The German-made music machine is one of the last
of its kind.  When it was renovated in 1979, many of the parts had to
be handmade, a process which took months. The antique band organ
underwent another major refurbishment in 1993, at a cost of over

With the passing of Looff and his peers, the art of carving carousel
horses has almost disappeared. Due to scarcity, they have become
collectible and increasingly valuable. The Boardwalk's entire carousel
cost $18,000 in 1911; now, just one of the Looff horses could bring in
excess of that if sold.

Carousel horses seem magical, ethereal, and even immortal; the reality
is that these beautiful carved figures are sturdy but all too mortal.
Over the years, some of the Boardwalk's Looff horses have been lost to
the ravages of time and wear.

However, the Boardwalk was able to reinstate its collection in 1978
with the acquisition of additional Looff horses from parks in Myrtle
Beach, South Carolina and Belmont Park, San Diego.

To preserve their beauty and enhance their value, the Boardwalk has
restored many of the steeds and continues to do so. Each charger must
be chemically stripped of all paint; the next step is to repair legs,
knees, surface holes, or cracks in the wood by using dowels and wood

In many cases, the horses' saddles, knees, and other areas which are
subject to rough wear are coated with fiberglass for added protection.
Worn details, such as decorated saddles and manes, are recarved or
rebuilt with wood putty prior to sanding and painting.

An expensive process costing about $2,000 per horse, restoration is as
much a preservation of history as the refurbishment of an amusement
park ride.  Ongoing maintenance includes touching up worn or chipped
paint, mechanical adjustments and repairs, and frequent polishing of
the ride's many brass poles and ornate mirrors.

Visitors from around the world have enjoyed the carousel, a ride which
is often called a roundabout in Great Britain, where it circles in the
opposite direction. In the United States, its typical title is either
carousel, sometimes with the French spelling of carrousel, or

The Boardwalk's hard-working antique has enjoyed its share of glory.
In 1987, the U.S. Park Service declared the ornate merry-go-round a
National Historic Landmark, along with the Boardwalk's 1924 Giant
Dipper roller coaster.

The Looff carousel has been seen in a variety of feature films,
commercials, and made-for-television movies. Film credits include
"The Lost Boys" and "The King of Love" (1987), "Brotherhood of Justice"
(1986), and "Sudden Impact" (1983).

California's oldest park and a State Historic Landmark, the
admission-free Boardwalk is the site of 34 rides, including the classic
and beloved merry-go-round.

Indeed, as the Boardwalk celebrates nine decades of carousel charms,
it honors Looff's fanciful creation as a precious circle of success.

Additional Information: Jan Bollwinkel-Smith (831) 423-5590

(Message sent Mon 26 Mar 2001, 20:08:42 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  Beach, Boardwalk, Carousel, Cruz, Looff, Santa

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