The Found Carousel
The National Carousel Associationís (NCA) Story of Monarch Parkís Carousel
The following story was written by Rol & Jo Summit and has been edited for use on this site.
Last January 2012, Barbara Charles called Rol Summit with news of a mystery merry-go-round. A couple of chroniclers of the long-lost Monarch Park in Oil City, PA, had sought NCA help in determining the destiny of the their parkís carousel, a step-up Dentzel menagerie machine documented with an amazing, perfectly detailed panoramic portrait.
Barbara mentioned that there were vague clues the carousel might have been sold to some place like Walled Lake near Detroit Michigan. The sound of that name recaptured much of the heart-thumping excitement of the Flying Dragon roller coaster. Jo and I had the answer to the Oil City mystery. We even had pictures!
Way back in October, 1974, we were in Flint, Mi, for the second annual convention of the then-called National Carousel Roundtable. We took the opportunity to revisit my nostalgic play land in search of the Walled Lake Park carousel.
While at the Walled Park amusement park, the Monarch Park Carousel was housed here. Photo courtesy of the Walled Lake Park website.
On arrival at the Walled Lake Park location we were disappointed to find a wasteland, with only an empty shell marking the site of the iconic carousel. A passing local told us that the carousel had been relocated to another amusement park. What park? My old favorite Edgewater Park, also near Detroit Michigan.
The Monarch Park Carousel in operation at Edgewater Park in 1971. It operated in the park from abt. 1962 to 1974. Barbara Fahs Charles Collection.
The remains of the Monarch Park Carousel after the flood at Edgewater Park. Rol Summit collection.
We drove the intervening 7 miles across town, excited to finally track down the carousel. What we found was a carousel in name only. The lower portion of the machine had been immersed in a flood a few years before; the carved figures had nearly drowned. Someone had daubed stark white primer over the damaged seams and contours of the figures, adding garish black saddles and eyeliner. Nostrils were running with blood-red paint. In some attempt at protection from the weather a crude latticework of wood had been nailed between platform and rim and shrouded in clear plastic, giving the interior something of the feeling of a tomb.
Surprisingly, considering the sorry state of the carved figures, the upper structure was apparently unscathed. The central paintings above the sweeps, as well as the framed mirrors below were intact. There was an unusual configuration of jig sawed scrollwork mounted above every sweep, each scroll ending with a mythical winged bird facing the center. All of these elements were not only well preserved but apparently still decorated in original paint. We photographed the upper structures and some of the inside figures. Because of the peripheral shroud we could get no perspective on the outside row figures.
At Edgewater Park. The Carousel's Decorative Sweeps. This would have been an option at purchase. Rol Summit collection.
At Edgewater Park. Some of the carousel's central decorative paintings. Rol Summit collection.
The desolation of the figures presented a portent of doom for the carousel as a whole in that era when even healthy carousels were being broken up for collectors. Sure enough, we learned that a California collector had optioned the machine within days of our visit. So that once-lovely merry-go-round simply disappeared both from view and from the collective consciousness of our fledgling conservationist group. Edgewater Park itself, like so many Detroit landmarks, fell victim to social upheavals and poverty. It closed in 1981.