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Idora’s carousel given rebirth in New York



Published: Mon, March 10, 2008 @ 1:20 a.m.

YOUNGSTOWN — It’s been a long, strange journey for the Idora Park carousel

since it was sold at auction in 1984, the year the amusement park was

shuttered.

The carousel has been transported to Brooklyn, N.Y. and undergone more than

22 years of rehabilitation while awaiting its place in the sun again.

That time is coming soon, said Jane Walentas, the carousel’s owner and

fastidious conservator.

The New Jersey-born artist devoted more than two decades to restoring every

detail of the 86-year-old carousel. All the superfluous coats of paint have

been stripped to reveal the original designs. Those designs were carefully

preserved and recreated.

The entire system electrical and lighting systems were rewired and the

engine degreased.

In 2006, her opus was at last complete.

“It all looks spectacular,” said Walentas. “Everyone who sees it goes crazy

for it.”

Now, the carousel is on display in a storefront in Brooklyn, waiting for its

final resting spot to be determined. But it won’t have to travel far.

Walentas and her husband — a real estate developer — had selected a site for

the carousel before the couple ever set eyes on the 1922 Philadelphia

Toboggan model that delighted generations of children in Youngstown.

Walentas’ career with the Idora Park carousel began in the early ‘80s, when

her husband was charged with revitalizing a former industrial neighborhood

known as DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). A partner in the

project suggested that the derelict park in the neighborhood’s center — with

its striking view of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge — would be an ideal

spot for a merry-go-round.

With her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine arts, Walentas was the

natural choice to carry out the vision. She spent one year researching and

shopping around before arriving in Idora Park on Oct. 24, 1984.

Her search, of course, ended there.

“I said to my husband, ‘If you’re really serious about this, this is the

one.’” said Walentas.

The Idora carousel was a rare find in more ways than one, Walentas said.

Handcrafted by master woodcarver Frank Carretta, it was one of the few

Walentas had seen that hadn’t been dismembered or relocated. It was one of

the most detailed, as well.

“I thought the carvings on the carousel were absolutely magnificent,”

Walentas said. “Everything else about the carousel — all the roundings and

rim boards — were way more elaborate that I had seen.”

The Walentas’ $385,000 bid was enough to disappoint collectors from across

the country that day. Thus began restoration project that occupied Walentas

for more than two decades.

“The horses had maybe 10 coats of paint,” she said. “I started by scraping

down with an X-acto knife.”

Scraping and documenting, consulting with expert restorers and filling in

cracks all were an exercise in precision. Just scraping paint from the

horses took Walentas 16 of the 22 years, she said.

“It was like doing an architectural dig. It was very exciting,” she said.

“Sure enough, I found all this original painting.”

Now, Jane’s Carousel — as New Yorker’s affectionately call it — waits while

officials debate the proper resting place in the Brooklyn Bridge Park. On

occasion, Walentas invites the public in to the storefront for a viewing,

but the space is too limited to permit rides.

Still, in its new home far from Mill Creek Park and the Idora midway, the is

carousel loved by all who know it, Walentas said — especially its owner.

There are few, if any, antique carousels in the United States that have been

so artfully restored, she said.

“When the carousel was all put back together, it was just the most

staggering and exciting thing,” she said. “I’m thrilled with where it came

out.”

aschmitt@vindy.com


Comments

1philobeto(85 comments)posted 6 years, 7 months ago

In the summer my friends and I would ride our bikes through Mill Creek park from the west side and spend the entire day at Idora park. I had my first crush on a girl that operated the rocket ship ride. We rode the wild cat amongst other rides more than I can count and as I got older we attended the last 2 spring things where we partied and watched the local bands perform in the ball room. Yea, it's a shame that the following generations never had the chance to experience Idora. The memories are priceless.

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2roscoepc(20 comments)posted 6 years, 7 months ago

I'm thrilled that our Idora Park icon has found a new loving home.
I'm saddened because, to me it's a symbol of all that we have lost, or let go without a fight, that we took for granted.
Remember Youngstown, there's always someone that wants what you have. We've sold ourselves short too many times.

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3idoralover(1 comment)posted 6 years, 7 months ago

I GREW UP WITH IDORA PARK IN MY BACKYARD AND WORKED SUMMERS THERE AS A TEENAGER. THE MEMORIES I HAVE ARE TOO MANY TO NAME, BUT IMAGINE FALLING ASLEEP EVERY NITE TO THE SOUND OF THE JACK RABBIT AND MUSIC FROM THE CAROUSEL, IT WAS A BITTERSWEET TIME IN MY LIFE I WILL NEVER FORGET. ITS SO WONDERFUL TO KNOW THAT THE MAGIC OF THE IDORA CAROUSEL HAS BEEN RE-BORN. I HOPE SOMEDAY TO COME TO NEW YORK AND BE ABLE TO SEE THIS INCREDIBLE SIGHT AGAIN. CONGRATULATIONS.!!!!!
JOANNA KEIPER

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