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Nunley's Carousel, Greenport Carousel, Hempstead Lake Carousel: Fun facts you may not know

Around and around they go — and they have for decades.

During the golden age of carousels — 1880 to 1930 — 3,000 to 4,000 wooden carousels were carved in the United States. Only about 150 remain, according to the National Carousel Association, and at least three are on Long Island.

The Cradle of Aviation, which is home to Nunley’s Carousel, sees more adults mount the horses on its antique ride than children. Gary Monti, the museum’s director of operations, says this speaks to the timelessness of the amusement park ride.

“I think it resonates with older people because they grew up on carousels,” says Monti, a Westbury resident who can still recall visiting Nunley’s Carousel as a child when it was in Baldwin. “For the younger children, even though they are very accustomed to high-performance rides at amusement parks, they seem to enjoy carousels as well, I think just for their simplicity and elegance.”

Here is a look at the history and makeup of three of Long Island’s own.

Nunley's Carousel

The entrance to Nunley's Carousel at the Cradle
Photo Credit: Marisol Diaz

WHERE Noon-5 p.m. daily through Sept. 3, Cradle of Aviation Museum, Garden City

INFO 516-572-4111, cradleofaviation.org

COST $2 per ride

AGE 104 years old

 

Art work on The Nunley's Carousel at the
Photo Credit: Marisol Diaz

ORIGIN Nunley's Carousel was created in 1912 by Stein & Goldstein in Brooklyn. Originally named Murphy’s Carousel, the machine was installed on the Brooklyn waterfront in Golden City Park in Canarsie where it operated for 26 years. In 1940, it moved to Baldwin and was renamed Nunley’s Carousel, after William Nunley, a third-generation amusement park entrepreneur. When Nunley’s closed in 1995, the carousel was rescued by Nassau County and spent the next 11 years in storage before undergoing an 18-month restoration. The carousel opened at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in May 2009.

Margarita Francesca Todesco, 2, of Hobrook and her
Photo Credit: Marisol Diaz

NO. OF FIGURES Nunley's Carousel features 41 horses, two chariots and one lion. Most of the horses’ tails are made of real hair that is washed weekly by museum staff.

MUSIC Traditional carousel music through the band organ. Billy Joel wrote the first song on the current playlist, titled “Nunley’s Carousel Waltz.”

LENGTH OF RIDE 4 1⁄2 minutes

Blue Chariot at The Nunley's Carousel at the
Photo Credit: Marisol Diaz

BRASS RING? Nunley’s is one of only three carousels in the country that still has an original brass ring machine, according to the National Carousel Association. The device entices riders to sit on the outside row of horses (these did not move up or down in the earliest incarnation of carousels) to snatch grabbable rings during the ride. Typically, the rider who gets the lone brass ring wins a repeat ride.

RESTORATION A $500,000 down-to-the-wood restoration was performed by Carousel Works in Ohio. It cost about $2,000 just to strip the original paint from each horse, each of which is still original to the Baldwin carousel.

Hempstead Lake Carousel

The entrance to the Hempstead Lake Carousel in
Photo Credit: Marisol Diaz

WHEN|WHERE Noon-7 p.m. weekends and holidays, Hempstead Lake State Park, Lakeside Drive, West Hempstead

INFO 516-766-1029, nysparks.com/parks/31

COST $2 per ride

AGE Believed to be between 99 and 106 years old

Ella Pizzo, 8, Ava Policaro, 8, Kathy Policaro,
Photo Credit: Marisol Diaz

ORIGIN Hempstead Lake Carousel, a three-row carousel, was built by M.C. Illions and Sons sometime between 1910 and 1917. The company’s founder, Marcus Charles Illions, immigrated to America from Lithuania in 1888 and was an innovative carver who favored horses with expressive faces in galloping poses. In 1931, the carousel was donated to the Long Island State Park Commission by philanthropist August Heckscher, the multimillionaire industrialist and real estate developer.

Trina Connor, 4, of Utica, New York rides
Photo Credit: Marisol Diaz

NO. OF FIGURES 36 horses and two chariots

MUSIC Songs from the “Good Old U.S.A. Carousel Music” recordings/compact discs

LENGTH OF RIDE 3 minutes

BRASS RING? No

RESTORATION A three-year, $400,000 revamp was completed in 2004 and involved swapping in several original Illions-carved horses taken from other carousels or found in storage, as well as a pair of new horses carved by the restoration company.

Northrop Grumman Carousel (in Greenport)

The Greenport Antique Carousel is located in Mitchell
Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

WHERE 10 a.m.-9 p.m. daily through Labor Day (closes at 6 on Labor Day), Mitchell Park, Front Street, Greenport

INFO 631-477-2200, villageofgreenport.org

COST $2 per ride

AGE 95 years old

The Greenport Antique Carousel in Mitchell Park in
Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

ORIGIN The Northrop Grumman Carousel was built in 1920 in upstate North Tonawanda. The carousel was intended to be easily disassembled and moved from town to town. Its early records were destroyed in a fire, but the ride was bought by Grumman in the ’50s and set up at its Calverton plant to be used during company events. In 1995, Northrop Grumman donated it to Greenport, where it had temporary homes before landing in its permanent park house named after Jess Owen, the first operator in Greenport.

Ashley Sanderson, 6, from Maine grabs a silver
Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

NO. OF FIGURES 36 jumper horses and two sleighs

MUSIC Disney classics, ’50s and ’60s music and show tunes.

LENGTH OF RIDE 3 minutes

BRASS RING? Yes, as designed by North Fork Welding of Greenport.

RESTORATION No. The village is planning fundraisers to create artwork for the rounding boards showing scenes of Greenport from the turn of the last century.

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