2006-09-01 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

Does Anyone Recall This Old Rockaway Carousel?
From The Rockaway Museum + by Emil Lucev, Curator + Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

The beautiful old Dentzel carousel pictured in Today's View once rotated around and around on the northwest corner of Beach 97 Street and brought magical enjoyment, with music, to kids young and old. Now on the site is the present John's Pizza place, which makes dough go round and round.

William Dentzel, the most prominent of carousel builders, constructed this particular work in 1925 for an amusement park near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The park closed in 1955 and it was reported that this wheel of pleasure came to Rockaway Beach sometime between 1955 and 1965.

Some photographs show the carousel at the Beach 97 Street site, directly opposite Howley's Hotel and Rockaway's Playland. The pics are from 1959 and 1960. During these years there was much demolition in the area while preparations were being made for Robert Moses' Title I projects. The old ride was dismantled and saved from the Grim Reaper by Frederick Fried, a well-known carousel historian and preserver. Undated photos by Fried from the Smithsonian show the old wheel with Howley's and Hickey's Hotel in the background, and another undated set shows the demolished carousel in an unknown storage lot here.

Fred Fried is reported to have put the old Dentzel in storage. Later on Fried loaned the carousel to a New Jersey amusement park. In 1965 the ride was placed in the care of the Smithsonian, stored and turned over to the Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission in 2002. At present the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia is restoring the famous Dentzel Carousel, which will be featured as a sort of centerpiece to be ridden again! While in the Rockaways, a carousel was reported as being owned and operated by a Mr. Gold (no first name) who lived on the beach block of Beach 120 Street in Rockaway Park. It was also reported that Mr. Gold advertised a carousel for sale in 1957. Can any old timer out there in Waveland fill in the blanks so yours truly can complete the story?

The photos appearing today are courtesy of the Smithsonian, whose info on this carousel has a lot of blank spaces also (not the Rockaway site). It is not known when the carousel started running across from Playland, nor when it stopped running, or when it was dismantled or demolished.

The Gold Carousel was a competitor of Nunley's Carousel on the southwest corner of Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 98 Street and the Playland Dentzel Carousel near the Park's gate #3- Beach 98 Street near Shorefront.

The latter is still running in Six Flags at Arlington, Texas and was at first on the boardwalk at Beach 98 Street at the southwest corner of old L.A. Thompson Amusement Park in 1925. The Thompson Park became Rockaway's Playland in 1928. William Dentzel himself installed this carousel in Thompson's Amusement Park. It seems as though the popularity of carousels died in the 1960s on the Rockaway peninsula, as they all disappeared, but Playland installed a small one again inside the park on the Beach 98 Street side near the boulevard.

So folks! Stay off the Internet and get your gray matter cooking to start your memory banks working. Send your recollections and facts to yours truly. Thank you in advance.

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