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
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
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
In 2006, her opus was at last complete.
“It all looks spectacular,” said Walentas. “Everyone who sees it goes crazy
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