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Idora Park gone, but its carousel has been fully restored

Published: Fri, September 16, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.



Jane’s Carousel, the former Idora Park carousel, opens to the public today on the edge of the East River at Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn, NY. The 89-year-old carousel, restored by artist Jane Walentas, is encased in a tiled box. The New York skyline is in background.



Jane Walentas purchased the 1922 Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel from Youngstown’s Idora Park in 1984. Some 27 years later Walentas is reopening the carousel, renamed Jane’s Carousel, today at Brooklyn Bridge Park.

A look at the history of one of Idora Park’s most-loved rides.

1922: Idora Park welcomes a new carousel built by Philadelphia Toboggan Co.

April 1984: The Wildcat roller coaster catches fire, damaging part of the carousel. The fire at the park led to its permanent closing at the end of that season.

1984: New York Artist Jane Walentas purchases the historic carousel for $385,000.

1984 to 2008: Walentas spends the next two decades restoring the carousel, eventually renamed Jane’s Carousel.

November 2008: A group of Mahoning Valley natives takes a bus trip to Brooklyn, N.Y., to visit the carousel after its completed restoration.

September 2011: Walentas opens the carousel to the public for the first time since 1984. The restored amusement-park ride is placed in Brooklyn Bridge Park at the edge of the East River in New York City.

Source: “Idora Park, The Last Ride of Summer” by Rick Shale and Charles J. Jacques Jr., The Vindicator, Jane Walentas.

By Elise Franco


Brooklyn, NY.

Jane Walentas' dream came to fruition today as the locally loved Idora Park Carousel, now Jane's Carousel, is restored to its former glory in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Walentas, a New York artist, purchased the 1922 Philadelphia Toboggan Co. model carousel in 1984 after it was badly damaged in a fire at Idora Park.

She spent the next 22 years chipping away old paint and restoring each piece.

It opens to the public today at its new home, overlooking the East River at the edge of Brooklyn Bridge Park.

“I thoroughly enjoyed restoring it. That was the easy part,” she said. “To me it was like an obsession. I started it, and I felt I had to finish it without even knowing if it would go into the park.”

Walentas said getting ready for today’s opening was all-consuming but worth the expected payoff.

“It was a struggle because there was a lot to it, but it was a wonderful, exciting experience,” she said. “Getting it ready and open for the public to ride it ... It’s been like ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy.’”

Carousel rides are free to children under 3 who are accompanied by an adult and $2 for everyone else. It will be open daily except Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Restoring the carousel wasn’t the only piece of the Walentas’ ultimate puzzle, however. She said it’s encased in a 27-foot by 72-foot box made of transparent acrylic tiles that took more than a year to design and build. French architect Jean Nouvel created the box.

Walentas said the box opens completely on two sides, giving carousel riders a completely unobstructed view of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, as well as the river.

“It’s very sophisticated, almost an engineering feat,” she said. “If you’re head-on, it looks clear; slightly to the side it gives you weird, beautiful distortions.”

June Zordich, 70, of Austintown, said she has fond memories of a childhood spent at Idora Park riding the carousel.

“I had a favorite horse that I always rode, and my mother, she always rode behind me in the sleigh,” she said. “In my junior year of high school, we went to an all-city prom held at Idora. Like teenagers do, we rode the carousel in our prom gowns.”

In 2008, Zordich joined a group of Mahoning Valley natives on a bus trip to visit Walentas and the carousel. She said seeing the piece restored was wonderful for the entire group.

“[Jane] did a magnificent job,” she said. “It just takes your breath away, and I don’t think there are any other people who would have dedicated themselves the way she did.”

Kathleen Crowley, 64, of Hudson, N.H., said she grew up in Youngstown and spent countless hours on the carousel as a child. She and her husband take their grandchildren to Canobie Lake Park in New Hampshire, which reminds them of Idora Park.

“I always rode and loved the horses, pretending they were real,” Crowley said. “I also loved riding the carriages on the carousel and would pretend the horses in front were pulling the carriage like in [Western movies.]”

Walentas said it’s important to her that Mahoning Valley natives are happy with how Jane’s Carousel turned out.

“Idora Park and that carousel were very precious to Youngstown people,” she said. “It was a wonderful place, a place where people went to relax and have fun.”

Walentas said she receives a consistent influx of emails from people who have seen pictures of the carousel on her website, janescarousel.com.

“They want to come and see it ... People have plans already to come and see it,” she said. “It makes memories. I think we all have memories of riding a carousel, the lights and the music and everything about it.”

Zordich said she hopes New Yorkers who visit Jane’s Carousel love and appreciate it as much as those from Youngstown continue to do.

“I just hope they appreciate what Jane did for the carousel,” she said. “I hope they understand what a work of art it truly is. It will never be duplicated.”


1James_S(268 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

I commend Jane Walentas for what she has done with the what is now "Jane's "Carousel".
But her carousel, along with all of Idora Park, I believe, should never have had the opportunity to leave Youngstown.
Idora Park, along with many other things, and I have the STEEL MILLS IN MIND, was a symbol of Youngstown and displayed what a great and thriving city Youngstown once was.
It was the 3rd largest steel-producing city in the United States. Idora Park was a result of Youngstown's greatness.
But that is all gone now. All we have left are the memories.
The attack on the steel industry in this country was promoted by our officials in Washington. Steel was the 1st to go. Then the petroleum industry. And on and on it goes...
Now we buy our steel from foreign companies. V&M Star is a French-owned company and is all part of the global "elites" agenda to globalize the world, including Youngstown, Ohio and morph it to accept their "globalization" and their "global economy" agenda.
Youngstown has been a victim of the global elites, who own this country and the politicians they have working for them and have them all in their hip pocket. They can be blamed for the downfall of Youngstown, Ohio. They can ultimately be blamed for the downfall of Idora Park.
Youngstown should still be a major steel-producing city in the United States. It should be a major steel-producing city of the entire world and Idora Park should still be here.
Shame on you politicians who are going along with and actually promoting the global elites' agenda and what is turning out to be the total destruction of America- once the land of the free and home of the brave.

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2dmacker(536 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

It was the steel companies themselves and their failure to up grade their furnaces to accept the new iron pellets that shut down the mills.
The pellets required a different manufacturing process than did the pure iron ore.
However, after the pure iron ore supply ran out
we had only the pellets from which to make steel and rather than modernize the Youngstown mills shut down.
I don't like politicians either. They have their hand in everyone's pocket but their own.
But, they didn't close the mills.

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3sistersun(49 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

She did do a wonderful job on the Carousel,But I totally agree with James.

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4Bigben(1996 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

James is correct and so is dmacker .The International bankers and big corporations (steel) bought politicians. This is still going on today with Free Trade agreements .

That is why I laugh at politicians who spout job creation while jobs are gushing out of the U.S.

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5kensgirl(1060 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

I am and will be the biggest fan of Idora Park. I just walked through there the other day and it was so haunted by the silence it was chilling. A graveyard is what it has become. We couldn't keep Idora today. Gang bangers and dope dealers would own it - not to mention a few drive bys. I loved the carousel and thank you Jane for restoring it. R.I.P. Youngstown and all the great people who lived there.

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6SkyKing310B(315 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

I agree with James and most of Dmacker, too. We rebuilt Japan and Germany after WWII, but we didn't keep up with the change in technology here at home. Add to that the USW contracts and the EPA mandates ( which continue today) led to the demise of the once great steel industry here.

As long as the politicians continue to make legislation and the gov't bureaucrats continue to issue edicts to make business here unprofitable, our jobs will continue to go overseas!

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7mjford(1 comment)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

Just rode the carousel this afternoon and it is phenomenal. Very beautifully restored and the setting is complementary. I agree with bgreene, if it had been left in Youngstown, I'm not sure anyone would have had the resources or the commitment to spend 20 years restoring it to its splendor. What progress has been made on retaining the spirit and traditions of Idora Park?

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8DOLE2(595 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

All the sentimental cry babys who want Idora back,are the same people who stopped going there in the 70s & 80s that led to its downfall.

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9Education_Voter(1173 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

I'm glad I can go visit it, and see my old steed. Prettier? It couldn't possibly be prettier than the way my 8 year old eyes saw it. I wonder if it still has the music? It looks like it has the scenic landscapes around the center that I used to see on the way around.

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10ccrascal(3 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

What ever happened to the original Wurlitzer 153 band organ that was a part of the carousel? I seem to remember that it was sold or removed before the auction liquidation of Idora park. I also remember that it was displayed and demonstrated at the Canfield fair about 12 or so years ago. That wonderful,happy music that machine produced was a major part of the enjoyment and experience of the Idora Park merry go round.

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11mammadoll(17 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

i totally agree with james..the carousel should never have left ytown..debartolo should have bought it for the area and had it restored and done what she did ..had it encased..and as for comments about it being vandalized here...not if it were placed in the mall.or some area...but what makes anyone think it would not b vandalized in new york ??? and brooklyn !?!?!?!? and did i read somewhere that she donated it ?? can someone refresh my mind that she wanted an astronomical sum from our historical society to buy it back ??? im sorry but i would not make a trip to new york to see the carousel..and no i do not think idora park could have been saved ..in this day expenses r astronomical to operate these what with the rides failing and people dying on them ..but these carousels r a part of our american history..the carvers who made the horses by hand r all gone now and we have precious few of these magnificant pieces left..we have kennywood in pa and sandusky ..which r still operational and kept up..the unfortunate part of our carousel was it was not kept up like it should have been and just layers of that paint slapped on slipshod..no it should never have left the area and its hard to put the blame on whose fault it wasbut now there is no time for crying over spilt milk

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12Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

Idora Park and its fixtures were built to entertain the workers . Today we have far fewer workers and the entertainment is the SouthSide Wildculture Show that runs 24/7 .


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13greygoos(1 comment)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

Surprised not to see any mention of The Duffy's family who ran Idora Park for many, many years. I can remember my parents and grandparents talking about the Park as they remembered it in their childhood.

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14mammadoll(17 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

paul duffy ran idora for many years and i feel he did a great job..it seemed to b his baby and he was there for the auction..but like i said the expense of running these parks cannot b taken on by small individuals..i think he was devasted by the fire and the fact that all was sold at auction.esp the carousel as he knew what a treasure it was..i got the feeling that he felt he let ytown down w/the outcome of all that happened..i believe it was not too long afterward that he passed away

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