Carousel #15

This week, we’re going to refocus ourselves from the external chaos. Let’s set aside a space where we can go back in time, one hundred and thirteen years ago, and maybe even a bit before that, too. This is a story about a survivor. Can we call an inanimate object ‘plucky’? Maybe. Today, the history of Philadelphia Toboggan Company’s Carousel #15.

(This is primarily a podcast! Click play on the player below!)

Philadelphia Toboggan Company

When last I focused heavily on carousels, it was October of last year, and I was telling you about the amazing Dentzel/Looff Carousel down at Seaside Heights in Florida. Well, that was a different time. It’s now March, we’re all inside, and recent updates are that the Dentzel/Looff Carousel has been disassembled for storage and refurbishment. 

This turned my mind to other carousels out there, so I went digging, and I found the subject of today’s episode: PTC #15. To explain, we must start at the beginning, and to start at the beginning, we must begin.

It starts with a guy, as always. Two guys. Henry Auchy, and his buddy, Chester Albright. In 1904, the two joined up and started a company. That’s what you did back in the day, you started a company instead of a podcast. They wanted to “build finer and better carousels and coasters”. These two guys did something smart, which was to purchase inventory from the E. Joy Morris Company.

E. Joy Morris

Now E. Joy Morris was a small carousel manufacturer right around the turn of the century, really lesser known, even in carousel circles. If you recall from the last carousel episode, there are three major styles of carousel carving: Coney Island style, Country Fair style, and Philadelphia style. It’s the latter that we’re going to talk about today, possibly unsurprising given the name.

So EJ Morris Jr. was a Philly man, born in 1860. Interesting tidbit, his father EJ Morris Sr, was US Minister to Turkey under Abraham Lincoln. With the family money, because of course there was family money, Morris was able to get in on the nascent amusement park trade. He patented a roller-coaster related invention in the late 1890s, and established his own company to build figure 8 toboggans (rollercoasters), carousels, and water chutes. Morris loved animals, loved children, and wanted to make them happy.

The famed Gustav Dentzel was Morris’ direct competition, and Morris aimed to outdo him by embellishing and adding incredible small whimsical details, perhaps also in a nod to his own playful nature. Morris also did something unique by keeping an inventory on hand. Prior to this, carousels were built on demand, but Morris’ firm built many carousels at once, perhaps as a way to keep the craftsman retained during slower months, or perhaps as a way of getting a leg up on Dentzel by being able to deliver carousels to customers faster.

Late in 1903, after building and selling well over 20 carousels and/or coasters, Morris’ business plans changed. For the sum of about $30,000, EJ Morris sold over 200 completed carousel figures to Auchy and Albright, allowing them to build four carousels outright and to jumpstart their business, recouping their investment almost immediately. 

Why’d EJ Morris sell his business? It appears to have been health problems – it’s said he was in the hospital shortly before he sold the manufacturing business, and though he lived another 20-some-odd years afterwards, it seems his health was always in decline. Though he divested himself of the manufacturing side, he did remain active in the business end of the amusement rides he already owned through about 1920.  

Philadelphia Toboggan Company

Morris then was a huge inspiration and jumping off point for the newly-formed Philadelphia Toboggan Company. As I said earlier, they quickly established themselves as a company after their inception in 1904, building four carousels in short order with their acquired E.J. Morris stock. Interestingly, this is why Morris isn’t as well known these days – his work is often mistaken for PTC work.  Neither Auchy nor Albright were carvers, unlike most other carousel companies at the time, so their house style varies quite a bit based on who was head carver at the time. 

I loved this quote from a 1904 Topeka State Journal article about Vinewood Park, one of the first PTC locations in the world. “The word carousell is probably a new-one in the west. The machine, which bears the name as its “official title,” is a revolving, circular platform about 80 feet in diameter, upon which is built a regular modern menagerie. All of the animals are fitted with saddles, and one can get a ride on anything from an elephant to a jackrabbit. The scheme is a new one, and has only been out of the factory for a few years. A number of the eastern parks have put in carousells, and they are proving very popular.”

Vinewood Park, interestingly, was one of the first Philadelphia Toboggan Company locations: carousel and rollercoaster #2 were both shipped to the same park. In fact, the first ten carousels and the first ten rollercoasters manufactured by PTC went to the same theme parks (ie, the park ordered both at once).

The carousel we’re interested in wasn’t built until 1907 – PTC #15. The PTC carousels are fairly unique in that each was numbered on their massive central poles. For historians, the numbering system did become confusing, as sometimes a new number was assigned to the same carousel after it went back to the factory for refurbishing. However, overall, it appears that the company kept excellent records based on the articles I’m reading. 

PTC #15 was built in 1907. This was PTC’s first four-row machine, as well as PTC’s first all-horse carousel (no other animals, no “menagerie” in carousel parlance). And, all the horses jumped (traditionally, the outer row of most beautiful carved horses were “standers” – stationary) – another first. Master carver Leo Zoller, head carver at PTC from 1906 to 1910, is said to have been responsible for many of the carved horses, as well as carver Daniel Muller, who often worked at Dentzel’s shop. 

PTC #15 was gorgeous, featuring large and highly animated figures with exquisitely-carved details. From the National Register of Historic Places entry, the horses on this carousel are “among the most realistically carved pieces ever done anywhere”. The carousel also featured two large, rare, well-carved lovers’ chariots, and handpainted rounding boards depicting animals frolicing in a mythical landscape. (Rounding boards, if you’re uncertain, are the painted boards decorating the tops of carousels – they hide machinery, and attract guests with both paintings and lights. Since they go “around”, the name is rounding boards.)

PTC #15 was built in 1907. (You already said that, I hear you saying.) That was one hundred and thirteen years ago. How many different places do you think this carousel has been since then? Let’s find out.

Fort Wendell / Fort George Amusement Park (New York, NY)

PTC #15 was initially delivered to Fort George Amusement Park in New York. This was located in New York City along the Harlem River, around West 190th St. This location is the northernmost tip of Manhattan, what is now Highbridge Park and George Washington Educational Campus, where George Washington fought the British during the Revolutionary War two hundred and fifty years ago. At the time of its construction, the park was of course, a trolley park, at the end of the Third Avenue Trolley Line. 

Fort George was known as Harlem’s Coney Island, and did its best to rival its Brooklyn amusement counterpart. This was a classic turn of the century amusement park resort, full of dance halls, roller rinks, fortune tellers, gambling, beer halls, restaurants, hotels, and of course, the latest in amusements: Ferris wheels, roller coasters, and carousels. It was less of an amusement park as we might think of today, and more of an amusement district, with many different owners and operators and many different smaller “parks” within the area. 

PTC #15 was actually not the first carousel at Fort George. In fact, 1905’s PTC #8 was the first carousel there, at Paradise Park within Fort George. (And though the RCDB lists the Fort George rollercoaster as “unknown”, a 2010 Carousel News and Trader article confirms that the first ten PTC carousels and coasters operated at the same parks. So PTC coaster #8 also would have operated here at Paradise Park at Fort George, a classic Figure 8 coaster similar to Leap-the-Dips, a coaster still operational today.)

Paradise Park was opened by two brothers, Joseph and Nicholas Schenck, who saw the potential in the area and wanted to develop it further with this separate, extra-admission park. They indeed made the park a huge success for the time – estimates in contemporaneous articles state 50,000 people in one evening in June 1906. The park was located on a hillside, and I saw an anecdote that in the earliest years, some guests had to climb unsafe ladders up the hillsides before more permanent stairs were added.

Different places will describe the location for PTC #15 differently: Wendell’s Park, Fort Wendel, and so forth. This was actually a small resort hotel owned by one Captain Louis Wendel, famed for its rooftop panorama views across the river. Here is where PTC #15 was said to have lived, a few years after its sibling began operation, and was operated by Henry and Frank Kolb. A contemporary photo from the Museum of the City of New York shows Fort Wendel located just across the street from the large Paradise Park entrance. A large faux castle turret facade stands atop the hotel roof, hoisting a big sign labeled “Wendel”.

It all must have been very glamorous at the time, especially on a hot summer night – feel the breeze off the river to cut some of the summer heat, have a drink, go dancing or roller skating, buy an ice cream or a beer, and ride an amusement ride: a coaster, a ferris wheel, a chair swing, a carousel. 

By 1910, however, public opinion of the locals was souring. Newspaper reports had headlines like “police will have their hands full there”, and other references talk about Fort George’s history describe “public drunkenness, noise, crime, and racial tensions”. Neighbors began pressuring the various local authorities and committees to shut down the amusement district.

The next year, 1911, saw an arson attempt. Perhaps related to the neighborhood sentiment, but who’s to say. The district reopened in 1912 after repairing the damages. Unfortunately, then came 1913. In June of 1913, another arsonist started a fire. Damages were reported at over $100k, with the entirety of the Paradise Park section destroyed completely by fire. 

This time, Fort George Amusement Park couldn’t recover. The local political groups ultimately took over the property and incorporated it (at the time) into Highland Park.

Now luckily, our hero, PTC #15, was located at Fort Wendel, across Amsterdam Avenue. Though the fire was said to have jumped across the street, where it destroyed a “four story frame building”, it did not apparently destroy PTC #15. 

With the destruction of Paradise Park and the generally unfavorable neighborhood sentiment, any remaining amusements likely moved out over the next few years. 

(Oh, and remember Joseph Schenck? He ultimately moved to California, became president of a little company called United Artists, created the company Twentieth Century Pictures (which of course became Twentieth Century Fox), and then was said to have played a key role in launching Marilyn Monroe’s career.)

Summit Beach Amusement Park (Akron, OH)

Park #2 for our carousel is a bit of a question mark, in that it’s uncertain when exactly PTC #15 moved to Summit Beach or when it left. 

Summit Beach Amusement Park was located in Akron, Ohio. It went by the names “Akron’s Fairyland of Pleasure” and “Akron’s Million Dollar Playground”. Local businessmen conceived of the idea in 1914, and had incorporated an amusement company by 1916. They took applications from independent concessionaires to fill the park: the Dixie Flyer, a huge coaster; a Whip and a Ferris wheel and a motordrome, for racing. And of course, a carousel. 

Now here is the point of contention, because the recent 2017 retrospective newspaper article about Summit Beach claims that the carousel at the park was a Dentzel menagerie from 1917 with a Wurlitzer band organ. Indeed, another article (Akron Beacon Journal, 2010) shows many pictures of the carousel, and it’s definitely a menagerie – black and white photos show children gleefully perched atop lions and pigs, neither of which are on a equine-only PTC #15. 

However, despite this, the fairly official and well-referenced history of Philadelphia Toboggan Company from Carousel News and Trader states that PTC #15 did go to Summit Beach Amusement Park. 

One possibility is that PTC #15 went not to Summit Beach, but to the adjacent Lakeside Park, which was later absorbed by Summit Beach as it grew. Lakeside began as a trolley park and picnic grounds back in 1886, and was primarily known for its casino theater. One image, which I’ve only been able to find in a Google Books preview of a vintage Ohio postcards book, does show this carousel – located not far from some canoe rentals, next to an open air building. The carousel is decently visible, with at least one horse in the outer row. The scan or photo aren’t clear enough, but it’s possible that this was in fact a four-row all-horse carousel. 

However, the provenance on PTC #15 at Summit Beach is not very clear at all. So let’s not dwell on it. We’re all tired, it’s March of 2020. Let’s call it a mystery and come back to it another time.

(Summit Beach was ultimately quite successful, absorbing Lakeside Park and operating for about 40 years before shutting down in 1958. It was primarily notable outside of the local amusement scene for the 1918 coaster derailment that killed several.)

State Fair Park (Milwaukee, WI)

From here, PTC #15 moved to Wisconsin for a while, heading in 1924 to the newly-opened permanent amusement park at the state fair in Milwaukee. Land of some of my favorite food groups, beer and cheese! 

To talk about the Wisconsin State Fair, we’ve got to go back – way back. The first fair was held in 1851! That year, the fair had between 13,000 to 18,000 guests, and was the largest gathering in Wisconsin at that point. Abraham Lincoln delivered the annual oration at the 8th annual fair, in 1859, and spoke about free labor. For many of the early years, the fair rotated through Wisconsin’s bigger cities: Madison, Milwaukee, Janesville, and Fond du Lac. In 1892, the fair’s 40th year, a permanent home was chosen: West Allis, a Milwaukee suburb. Apparently this was a controversial choice, as many at the time were campaigning instead for a home in Madison, where Camp Randall Stadium is today – right on the university campus, in the middle of the crowded downtown isthmus. By contrast, West Allis was out in the middle of nowhere (at the time) near Milwaukee. It’s interesting to think how that one simple choice could’ve drastically changed an entire city’s downtown! 

Interesting anecdote for the football fans – apparently for several decades (between 1934 and 1951), the Green Bay Packers played several of their regular season games at the State Fair Park, including the 1939 NFL Championship. 

1924 saw the introduction of the signature Wisconsin State Fair food: the cream puff. But it was predated by a few years by the Midway, in 1922, the “old State Fair Midway” (—Volume-1-of-2?bidId=) and the PTC #15. The midway was “Disneyland before Disneyland”, according to Jerry Zimmerman, the state fair historian, in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article from 2007. This new midway was a spot for permanent rides, operating under the care of a guy named Charles Rose, and supplemented by the annual travelling shows. Rides were open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. By some accounts, the area was called Fun City.

“”It had a great roller coaster that ran from the front of where the Expo hall is now down to Greenfield Avenue. There was a Ferris wheel, the bug, the hammer, the whip, the octopus, the electric scooter and the old mill that was a tunnel of love, and a great penny arcade,” Zimmerman said. 

The carousel, old PTC #15, was a fair staple for decades at State Fair Park in Wisconsin. I’ll link to a couple of historical photos. (Great photo gallery of the entire fair history here.) Apparently Zimmermann used to pretend he was the Lone Ranger when he rode it as a kid at the fair each year, which is an image of great delight to me. 

As these things always go, the old State Fair midway didn’t last. The fair saw a downfall in attendance after World War II, and it was nixed. The fair is still there in West Allis today, but the “old” permanent midway closed at State Fair Park after the 1960 season. 

Dandilion Park / Muskego Beach Park (Muskego, WI)

Following the closure of the permanent midway at State Fair Park, rides were sold to new homes. Our friend Carousel #15 didn’t go far – only about 15 miles southwest, in what is today an outer suburb of Milwaukee, a town called Muskego. 

At that time, the carousel’s new home was called Muskego Beach Amusement Park, or Muskego Beach Resort.

Muskego Beach Amusement Park had been in operation almost as long as the Wisconsin State Fair itself – since 1861! Not much information is available about the earliest years, but regular listeners could probably make a safe guess: that it started out as a picnic grounds type of park. It was opened by Civil War veteran John C. Schuet in 1861, a man called the “King of Muskego” in 1880s politics.

Back then, it was called Muskego Lake House and Beach Resort, where visitors could partake in “picnicking, fishing, boating, swimming and dancing”. (Here’s an interesting tidbit for you – the Muskego Center Cemetery was established on that property in 1881, bordered on three sides by the park. The little pioneer cemetery weathered poorly, stones weather-worn and indecipherable, described in an article as “a nuisance to the community.” Validity of that opinion is up to the individual, but it does seem the small cemetery had lost most interest. It wasn’t until 1955 that all the bodies in the cemetery were exhumed and moved to a different cemetery, Prairie Hill Cemetery in Waukesha.)

Schuet owned the park for over 60 years, selling it in 1928 to its second owner, a guy named William Boszhardt. The details are vague, but Boszhardt definitely added to the amusement park side of things, and is credited with changing the name to Muskego Beach Amusement Park. And while Boszhardt was the owner, a familiar name did the managing: Charles Rose, the same guy from the state fair. 

By 1929, a classic wooden John A. Miller coaster called Cyclone had been installed by Charlie Rose. There were all kinds of our favorite early and mid century theme park rides, like The Whip. But why Muskego?

Here’s the connection for you, and likely the reason that the carousel went where it did. In 1944, in the middle of the war, Charlie Rose bought Muskego Beach Amusement Park from its then-owner, the recently widowed Mrs. William Boszhardt – birth name Nellie Lou Krebs. The park was shut down for the war, but Rose reopened and renovated it afterwards.

For the better part of two decades, then, he owned both the midway at State Fair Park as well as Muskego Beach Amusement Park. When the midway shut down, it was a simple decision that most of the rides would be acquired by Muskego Beach Amusement Park (which Rose also owned), replacing the older and smaller rides at this regional park with bigger rides worthy of a state fair. And Muskego was a short electric rail ride away from downtown Milwaukee, too.

Under Rose’s ownership, the park expanded and developed further. There was a ballroom for dancing operated under private ownership called the Starlight Ballroom, operated by Elsie and Robert Schmidt. Open only on the weekends, it held an air of mystery for younger daytime park visitors. During the weekend days, the ballroom was used as a rollerskating rink. Weekly dances and regular bands were hosted there, and it was said to be a popular evening event. Big names like the Everly Brothers performed, all the way down to smaller local bands.

Other items around the park were upgraded as well. There was an even larger beach for bathing. New rides like the Rolloplane were added, and massive increases made to concession stands and other outbuildings. A man named George gave boat rides on the lake in a fancy Chris-Craft boat from Dandilion Park that were fondly remembered.

TailSpin Coaster at Dandilion Park / Muskego Beach Amusement Park (WI)

The Cyclone coaster closed in the 1950s. I did see one news report of a death on the ride due to a rider standing up while the coaster was in motion and falling off. However, a line from another newspaper article indicates the Cyclone was damaged irreparably in a storm, so this may be the reason for the closure. Indeed, another short blurb from a 2015 issue of Amusement Today notes that the Cyclone was damaged twice in 1950 by wind, with some saying that it “fell over like a set of playing cards”.

Most of the broken ride was removed by the beginning of the 1951 season, according to Amusement Today. Rose was savvy, though, and 700 feet of the Cyclone’s easternmost turnaround was retained and incorporated into the newly-built TailSpin coaster, which opened in 1955. Rose himself designed the TailSpin, built to the tune of about $75,000.

TailSpin had a rough start though. A huge windstorm knocked over 250 feet of the TailSpin tracks, crushing the new Whip and Caterpilar rides in the process, two weeks before the park was set to open for the season and debut the coaster. Damages were estimated at around $125,000, but all save for the coaster were able to open on time two weeks later.  When TailSpin finally did open, it was worth the wait. This coaster is the park’s most famous and memorable. Remembrances online indicate this was a very good coaster – said to be one of the fastest and the steepest for its kind. The drop was a very high 75 feet!

Decline and Closure of Dandilion Park / Muskego Beach Amusement Park (WI)

In or around 1968, the park was sold to a man named Willard Masterson, who changed the name to Dandilion Park. It continued to be a popular place with local school groups, employer celebrations from small businesses and giant Milwaukee area manufacturers alike, reunions, and so forth. 

Around the same time, we had another addition to the park – choo choo, it’s time for The Abandoned Train! Yes, Dandilion Park rode the wave of all of the other theme parks in the mid-1960s and got itself a miniature steam train. Not only a generic train. Nope, Dandilion Park purchased a Chance C. P. Huntington direct from the factory in Wichita, serial number #61. It ran for the remaining years of the park’s operation. 

Trouble started brewing in the early 1970s, though. A young boy fell from the Ferris wheel and died, which may have led to rumors about the park’s safety. Additionally, rumors of a new, massive park being built only an hour away in Gurnee, IL. See, Marriott, the hotel chain, wanted to branch out in the tourism industry. They had three different regions planned: Chicago-Milwaukee, San Francisco, and Baltimore. The Baltimore park was to be the flagship park, but faced a series of bueracratic and local opposition. Ultimately, it was canceled. 

And in 1976, Great America opened, a park you now know as Six Flags Great America. With only two months separation, Marriott opened a Great America park in California and a Great America park in Gurnee, IL. The park was an immediate success, both due to the timing (the 1976 bicentennial) and the use of the licensed Looney Toons character theming. 

And Dandilion Park, only an hour away, felt the pinch. Milwaukee and Chicago residents started going to Great America over Dandilion Park. Why did Dandilion Park / Muskego Beach Amusement Park close? The inevitable economic cycle began – lowered crowds, less money, maintenance falters, crowds stay away, and eventually it became unprofitable to continue operating Dandilion Park. 

Dandilion Park closed in 1978.

The park stayed SBNO, standing but not operating, for several years, until 1983. Ultimately, the land was purchased in order to be turned into condominiums. The park was burned down as practice for the local fire department. Gone up in flames, all but memories.

(That’s not entirely true – the sign from the TailSpin was recovered, restored, and today is owned and displayed by the Muskego Historical Society. The CPH also did not get burned. It was sold to the Tulsa Zoo in Tulsa, OK, where it still operates today, with CPH #90 and #358.) At one point around 2010, a proposal went around to potentially rebuild a beach park at the lake. I’m not sure if that actually went forward or not. And as I said earlier, the land where the park used to be became condos. So it goes. 

Lost Years for Carousel #15

You might be saying, where did the carousel go?

Don’t worry, it didn’t get burned up. That sucker is 70+ years old by this point in our story and has already survived multiple theme parks and at least one fire. This little planned fire wouldn’t stop it.

Carousel in Oshkosh

No, our friend PTC carousel #15 survived. It was purchased prior to the fire by a private group in Oshkosh. At the time, the trend was for carousels to be broken up, selling the desirable horses at higher individual cost to private collectors. The Carousel of Oshkosh, Incorporated group was formed to prevent Carousel #15 from being served the same fate.

The goal was for the carousel to become part of a park in Oshkosh, WI, home of a very good chocolate shop, Oaks Candy. This was to be a new park located near the Oshkosh Airport, to open in 1980. “Scheduled to open in May, 1980, the park will be themed to the turn of the century and will include other amusement rides and attractions typical of that era.”

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that this never happened. Oshkosh is an incredibly small town, and the startup costs for a theme park are very large. 

Carol and Duane Perron of the International Carousel Museum of Art bought the carousel in 1984 from the defunct Carousel Oshkosh park company to the tune of $150,000, and began restoring it – almost 80 years old at this point, and the big carousel could certainly have used a day at the spa by then.

The Perrons lived on the West Coast, so the carousel got to take its biggest trip yet by this point, all the way to Oregon. Between 1984 and 1986, they restored the carousel fully to perfect working condition.

Touring with Carousel #15

1986 saw the carousel being sent out of country for the first and only time, up to Vancouver, British Columbia for the Expo ‘86. Interestingly, this move resulted in the carousel being removed from the National Historic Register, as the move was done without consulting the Register first. 

I had to Google this one, but Expo ‘86 was another classic World’s Fair, held in fall of 1986 in Vancouver. World’s fairs are designed to be places for nations to showcase their achievements for one another, and may or may not be themed. (These World’s Fairs are still a thing, by the way, if you didn’t know. I didn’t. The 2020 Expo will be held in Dubai, UAE in October of this year, 2020, should gatherings of more than 10 people be allowed by then.) The very first Ferris wheel was invented for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, for instance, as a rival for the previous stunner, 1889’s Eiffel Tower.

Anyhow, back to the Expo ‘86. The theme was “Transportation and Communication: World in Motion, World in Touch”, so you can see how a carousel fit nicely. In a quote from the NY Times writeup: “Its scientific theme should not dissuade vacationers because there is something for everyone, from rival United States and Soviet space stations to a painstakingly restored 1907 carousel with hand-carved and painted wooden horses.” (Again, sidebar: another interesting attraction from this Expo was something called “McBarge”, a floating McDonalds. It’s the subject of a great Bright Sun Films YouTube documentary – check it out.) The carousel lived at the Expo for several months, and was quite a popular attraction, especially for young guests. Here’s a video of the carousel in action at the fair – fast forward to timestamp 19:26.

After the Expo, Carousel #15 spent the next three years traveling on various exhibits up and down the West Coast. While the carousel was not built as a portable model per se, it was clearly able to be assembled and disassembled without much fuss.

Carousel #15 at the Mall

As Robin Sparkles might say, let’s go to the mall, today! Well, at least virtually Following the carousel’s travels with Perron’s International Carousel Museum of Art, Carousel #15 was installed at a California mall.

Puente Hills Mall (City of Industry, CA)

The Puente Hills Mall is located in City of Industry, CA, a made-up-seeming town name that is in fact real, and located in a Los Angeles suburb. The mall opened in 1974 and is still operational today. My perusal of Wikipedia tells me it was most notable for being the filming location for the parking lot scenes from Back to the Future, aka “Twin Pines Mall”. Puente Hills also was home to the first ever Foot Locker store, apparently. 

One of my newest favorite YouTube channels is called Retail Archaeology – videos of malls from active to “dead malls” – malls that are on the verge of closure. Erik from Retail Archaeology did a 2018 video on Puente Hills, and it was nice to watch that last night while doing podcast research on the topic. 

Anyhow, in 1991, our friend Carousel #15 moved to the Puente Hills Mall. It was located on the first floor, in the center of the plus-shaped mall, underneath some massive skylights that really illuminated the newly refreshed carousel. Patrons shopping on the upper levels could easily look down to watch the carousel spin in the atrium below. The carousel seems to have done well for a period of time, and I’m sure all the wooden horses appreciated being inside a nice air-conditioned space instead of weathering decades of Wisconsin winters and summers.

Unfortunately, the late 90s were a period of struggle for Puente Hills Mall, and they had less than 50% occupancy around this time, a terrible sign for a big mall. Things did slowly rebound, but our friend Carousel #15 was removed in 1998 – too expensive, and losing money for the mall operators. 

Today, Puente Hills Mall is operational but struggling again, despite a 2007 remodel. Where the carousel once stood is now just boring carpet, and where visitors once walked through bustling halls, today few gather. Several of the larger stores have been closing in the last few years, including Sears and Forever 21, and anecdotal reports online are that more store closures are inevitable. 

Dead malls are a topic I don’t think I’ve touched on at all here on the podcast yet, but they’re fascinating and I’d say quite relevant given our present day state. Check out Retail Archaeology, Sal’s Expedition Logs, or Dan Bell’s Dead Mall Series on YouTube for days of interesting content on the subject.

Palisades Center Mall (West Nyack, NY) 

So 1998, the Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel #15 was removed from Puente Hills Mall in California. It didn’t stay idle, however. 

No, the carousel went on another cross-country trip, back to New York, back to another mall. 

This mall was brand new at the time, though it had been under plan and development for around 16 years. Palisades Center Mall was built on the site of two former landfills, surrounding an old cemetery, and faced down opposition from locals who feared noise and crime well before any construction was even begun. When it opened in 1998, it became the second-largest shopping mall in the New York metro area, and the eighth-largest shopping mall in the US. 

PTC #15 was installed in the third-floor food court, a glorious anachronism against modern tubular white architecture and pipes (“industrial style”). There it spun, tinkling organ bouncing amongst the fast food restaurants and tables and trashcans, shimmering and brightly colored against the white of its surroundings.

Palisades Center Mall is apparently popular on YouTube with elevator enthusiasts, for having high speed “Montgomery Kone traction elevators”. (Did you know there’s an elevator Wiki? Of course there is.

Here is where the carousel was re-added to the National Register of Historic Places, in 2001. The carousel lasted for eleven years there in the mall food court, until mall management decided to replace the vintage machine with a modern double-decker masterpiece. In 2009, then, the PTC #15 was last seen operational in public, there in West Nyack, New York.

Carousel #15 in Oregon

Evicted from Palisades Center Mall, Carousel #15 was returned to the Perrons in Oregon. 

For some time, there were plans for a physical carousel museum. Well, there was a physical carousel museum, in Hood River, Oregon. It opened in 1999, and featured over 100 carousel animals on display for visitors to photograph. From an article about the museum, I learned that basswood is what both carousel horses and rulers are made out of, as it is a wood that doesn’t buckle, sweat, crack, or change shape. (The more you know!) 

Whether one or more horses from Carousel #15 was ever on display is not clear, but it’s unlikely, given that the carousel returned to Oregon in mid-2009.

The museum closed in 2010, with the intent of relocating, but this never occurred, and the museum stayed permanently shuttered. 


This then is the last time we hear from the Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel #15. By all accounts, the carousel is in storage there in Oregon, awaiting a new home. Out with a whimper and not a bang.

As recently as 2018, Jerry Zimmerman at the Wisconsin State Fair was still hoping to get PTC #15 back to Wisconsin – a news article from 2018 described it as his white whale.  “I have tried for years to find someone to bring that back, and I would like to tie that merry go round into a standalone unit on State Fair Park, anchoring a Wisconsin State Fair historical collection,” he said. “I would need a sponsor for about $1.5 million to bring it back to Milwaukee.”

At the height of the American carousel boom, there were said to be thousands of carousels, big and small, mostly handcarved. As the Depression wore on, production slowed, machines were dismantled or lost to fire, and today, there are said to be less than 150 vintage carousels remaining, with less than 50 of the caliber of PTC #15.

At this point, the magnificent carousel is still is storage somewhere in Oregon, under the care of the Perron family after Duane Perron passed away in 2018. Waiting.

56 horses. 52 feet in diameter. Many “firsts”. 600 lights. Four theme parks. Two malls. 

One truly historical carousel: Philadelphia Toboggan Company’s carousel #15.

Remember that what you’ve read is a podcast! A link is included at the top of the page. Listen to more episodes of The Abandoned Carousel on your favorite platform: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | RadioPublic | TuneIn | Overcast | Pocket Casts | Castro. Support the podcast on Patreon for extra content! Comment below to share your thoughts – as Lucy Maud Montgomery once said, nothing is ever really lost to us, as long as we remember it.


  1. Muskego Historical Society – Photos. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  2. Remembering Muskego. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  3. Remembering Muskego. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  4. Remembering Muskego. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  5. Remembering Muskego. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  6. 9 Jun 1913, Page 1 – The Evening World at World Collection. Accessed March 16, 2020.
  7. 23 May 1909, Page 1 – The Sun at World Collection. Accessed March 16, 2020.
  8. 30 Jun 1907, Page 33 – The Brooklyn Daily Eagle at World Collection. Accessed March 16, 2020.
  9. 1900s MANHATTAN NEW YORK NY. Accessed March 15, 2020.
  10. Malina C. A Look Back At The History Of The Wisconsin State Fair. Wisconsin Public Radio. Published August 5, 2015. Accessed March 21, 2020.
  11. A Piece of Muskego’s Past for $2.2 Million | Muskego, WI Patch. Accessed March 24, 2020.
  12. Inc NBM. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc.; 1950.
  13. Inc NBM. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc.; 1956.
  14. Inc NBM. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc.; 1957.
  15. Inc NBM. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc.; 1958.
  16. Inc NBM. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc.; 1958.
  17. Inc NBM. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc.; 1959.
  18. Billboard. Billboard Publications; 1950.
  19. Brass Ring Entertainment: 1907 PTC Carousel #15. Published March 4, 2013. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  20. Brief History of the Wisconsin State Fair. Wisconsin State Fair Park; 1992.
  21. Carousel Rounding Boards Part 1. The Woodcarver’s Cabin. Accessed March 19, 2020.
  22. Dandelion Park in WI – CoasterBuzz. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  23. dandilion.html. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  24. Dead Mall Watchlist: Puente Hills Mall. reddit. Accessed March 23, 2020.
  25. Expo 86. In: Wikipedia. ; 2020. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  26. Expo 86 (Vancouver, B.C.) – City of Vancouver Archives. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  27. Expo 86: When Vancouver wooed the world, in 30 photos. Vancouver Sun. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  28. Fort George Amusement Park. In: Wikipedia. ; 2020. Accessed March 16, 2020.
  29. Fort George Amusement Park | Museum of the City of New York. Accessed March 19, 2020.
  30. Fort George: Manhattan’s long-lost amusement park. 6sqft. Accessed March 15, 2020.
  31. ftgeorgeny.html. Accessed March 16, 2020.
  32. Fun City (West Allis, Wisconsin, United States). Accessed March 22, 2020.
  33. Help Identify this coaster! Accessed March 24, 2020.
  34. Historic Carousel Rides Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters. Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, Inc. Accessed March 15, 2020.
  35. Historical-and-Architectural-Resources-Survey—Volume-1-of-2.pdf.—Volume-1-of-2?bidId=. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  36. Cindy. History in Pictures- Summer Fun Edition. Akron Ohio Moms. Published April 29, 2016. Accessed March 16, 2020.
  37. admin. History of the Fort George Amusement Park. | My Inwood. November 2013. Accessed March 15, 2020.
  38. History Of The Wisconsin State Fair. WISN. Published July 30, 2009. Accessed March 21, 2020.
  39. International Museum of Carousel Art – Wikipedia. Accessed March 18, 2020.
  40. International Museum of Carousel Art on Published January 31, 2013. Accessed March 23, 2020.
  41. Janesville Rd. | National or State Registers Record. Wisconsin Historical Society. Published January 1, 2012. Accessed March 15, 2020.
  42. Hullum R. Jerry Zimmerman and the Hope for a Year-Round State Fair History Exhibit. Shepherd Express. Published July 17, 2018. Accessed March 21, 2020.
  43. Lake George trip – 7/7-9/06 – jimvid. Accessed March 24, 2020.
  44. Lake Land Was Once a Cemetery. Muskego, WI Patch.–lake-land-was-once-a-cemetery. Published June 30, 2012. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  45. Gottlock B, Gottlock W. Lost Amusement Parks of New York City: Beyond Coney Island. Arcadia Publishing; 2013.
  46. Lost Amusement Parks of New York City: Beyond Coney Island – Barbara Gottlock, Wesley Gottlock – Google Books. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  47. Mall carousel. The Journal News. June 20, 1999:16.
  48. Mall carousel. The Journal News. June 20, 1999:16.
  49. Mall’s Future in Doubt Amid Many Questions – The New York Times. Accessed March 23, 2020.
  50. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  51. Kaczkowski M. Milwaukee’s Historic Bowling Alleys. Arcadia Publishing; 2010.
  52. Museum of the City of New York – Audubon Ave. [Amsterdam to Battery Place.]. Accessed March 19, 2020.
  53. Nuclear_Art. Muskego Beach.; 2012. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  54. Muskego Beach. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  55. Muskego Beach / DandiLion Park. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  56. Muskego Beach Amusement Park. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  57. Muskego Beach new owners 1968. Waukesha Daily Freeman. May 31, 1968:23.
  58. Muskego Cemetery, Muskego Township Waukesha County, Wisconsin – Waukesha County WI. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  59. Muskego Historical Society – Posts. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  60. Muskego Historical Society – Posts. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  61. Muskego injury 1952. The Oshkosh Northwestern. July 14, 1952:13.
  62. National Carousel Association – Major Carousel Builders and Carvers, by Brian Morgan (Page 2 of 3). Accessed March 18, 2020.
  63. New York Carousels | Accessed March 22, 2020.
  64. Department of the Interior. National Park Service. (3/2/1934 – ). New York SP Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel Number 15.; 2013.
  65. Ohio’s Amusement Parks in Vintage Postcards – David W. Francis, Diane DeMali Francis – Google Books. Accessed March 17, 2020.
  66. Palisades Center. In: Wikipedia. ; 2020. Accessed March 23, 2020.
  68. Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel Number 15. In: Wikipedia. ; 2019. Accessed March 15, 2020.
  69. Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel Number 15. Accessed March 15, 2020.
  70. caboose_rodeo. PTC #15 Palisades Mall NY.; 2007. Accessed March 16, 2020.
  71. Puente Hills Mall. In: Wikipedia. ; 2020. Accessed March 23, 2020.
  72. Puente Hills Mall Aka Twin Pines Mall From Back To The Future! | Dead Mall Documentary. Accessed March 23, 2020.
  73. Quassy Lake Carousel Accessed March 18, 2020.
  74. Remembering DandiLion Park in Muskego. WTMJ. March 2019. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  75. Remembering the carousel museum that nearly came to Tacoma | Tacoma News Tribune. Accessed March 18, 2020.
  76. Sep-Oct_10.pdf. Accessed March 19, 2020.
  77. summit beach Archives – Akron Postcards. Accessed March 17, 2020.
  78. Summit Lake. Paranormal Playground. Accessed March 16, 2020.
  79. Summit Lake: A Place of History and Transformation. Accessed March 16, 2020.
  80. The History of Waukesha County, Wisconsin, Containing an Account of Its Settlement, Growth, Development, and Resources … Waukesha County Historical Society; 1880.
  81. Glauber B. The surprising history of State Fair Park. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Accessed March 21, 2020.
  82. Wren CS. Vancouver Unwraps Its World’s Fair. The New York Times. Published April 20, 1986. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  83. Department of the Interior. National Park Service. (3/2/1934 – ). Wisconsin Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel No. 15: Withdrawn.; 2013.
  84. Wisconsin State Fair. Wisconsin Historical Society. Published December 14, 2014. Accessed March 21, 2020.
  85. Wisconsin State Fair Park. In: Wikipedia. ; 2019. Accessed March 22, 2020.
  86. Wisconsin State Fair, 1900-’90: Entertaining, daring, unusual looks at life. Accessed March 22, 2020.

1 comment on “Carousel #15

  1. paulie

    What a NEAT history lesson! I worked for the Perrons and did a little work on Catskill (one of horses) – Duane and Carol LOVED their figures, and every horse and figure in their vast collection had a name. Duane was working on setting up a Trust for the Museum before he passed, but I don’t know if he completed it before hand. Last I heard, a snowstorm destroyed the building in Dee where the new museum was going to be, and I don’t know if PTC 15 had been moved there at that point….


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.