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Mural of Nunley's Carousel 'lead horse' will go up at LIRR station

Artist Michael White unveils his mural of the

Artist Michael White unveils his mural of the Nunley's Carousel lead horse at the carousel's home on Museum Row, next to the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City. The painting will be installed at the Baldwin LIRR station. Credit: Howard Simmons

The magic of Nunley's Carousel lived in Baldwin for 56 years. A bit of that magic will soon be returned in the form of a mural at the Baldwin Long Island Rail Road station as a reminder of the timeless carousel rides.

The mural by Garden City-based artist Michael White depicts the beloved “lead horse,” the biggest, most decorative horse on any carousel. Nunley's lead horse is a chestnut-colored steed adorned with roses.

“Nunley’s is just one of those primordial memories of mine,” said White, who grew up in Baldwin and rode the carousel as a child. “It’s a place I’m really connected to.” 

The 7-foot-long and 5-foot-wide acrylic mural was unveiled Saturday at the carousel’s current home on Museum Row, next to the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, where it has been since 2009.

The carousel was created in 1912 by Stein & Goldstein in Brooklyn and was installed on the waterfront in Golden City Park in Canarsie. It operated there originally as Murphy’s Carousel for 26 years before moving in 1939 to Nunley's Amusement Park in Baldwin, where it was renamed Nunley’s Carousel. When Nunley’s closed in 1995, the carousel was rescued by Nassau County and spent the next 12 years in storage before undergoing an 18-month restoration.

“I love the process of mythologizing the carousel somehow,” White said. “Making it part of the permanent town lore, because it really was, not just for Baldwinites. It was this magic old world, this turn-of-the-century-type place.”

The $4,500 cost of the mural was raised by the Baldwin Civic Association, said Rita Cavanagh, chairwoman of the association’s Beautification Committee.

“Before we even wanted to take this on, we wanted to make sure that the community wanted it,” Cavanagh said.

White featured a series of watercolor paintings of the carousel horses on his website last year,  and that caught the attention of the civic association. The group posted the idea of the mural on Facebook and received an overwhelming response, Cavanagh said. “I hope we can keep the enthusiasm going and eventually get another mural on the other side of the station.”

 White said that the mural, which will be his first to appear in an outdoors location, took nearly 80 hours to complete.

“It’s the first time I’ve done a work that seems to have a very, very local reaction,” White said. “More and more I found that Nunley’s really cast a spell on a very wide group of people, very intensely, and they still remember it clearly. “

The mural will be placed on a pillar holding up the trestle on Grand Avenue and Sunrise Highway, on the south side of the tracks. Cavanagh said the installation is planned for the end of April.

“I hope that we see more works of art in place throughout Baldwin and throughout the South Shore,” Cavanagh said. “I think it’s important to appreciate the arts.”

Fun facts

  • Inside the lead horse, which is hollow, is a time capsule containing newspaper articles and pictures that tell the story of the carousel and its restoration through 2009.
  • The carousel features an original Wurlitzer 153 band organ. Billy Joel wrote the first song on the current playlist, titled “Nunley’s Carousel Waltz.”
  • Along with 30 jumping horses, 11 standing horses, one lion, and two chariots, 28 other animals can be found around the carousel.

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