2010-08-27 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

Riding The Rockaway Carousel
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke
There was a time in Rockaway Beach when you could hop a ride on a big carousel any time you felt like it, and if you were good, you could get a big horse…that went up and down. If that grand steed was on the outside part of the ride, you could catch a carousel ring or two or three from the extended arm on the ring keeper’s platform. The prize catch was the gold ring, which got you a free ride.

The first carousel was built in Seaside by Frederick Schildt in about the year 1882, and was steam operated. Schildt’s pavilion was designed like an old German barnyard, complete with animals and a beer garden. Over the following decades up to demolition of Rockaways’ Playland in 1987, many more carousels would provide that indescribable feeling one gets, when riding! Right! The last was operated in Playland Amusement Park. Schildt’s barnyard was located south of the present boulevard just west of the Beach 98 Street, and Playland was near the boulevard on the west side of Beach 98 Street.

Appearing in views today is a photograph of one of the best known giant carousels in the Rockaway Beach Amusement area of old; Nunley’s Carousel.

William Nunley came to the Rockaways in 1914, and built his carousel and enclosure building at the northwest corner of Beach 103 Street and Ocean Avenue, which was the Seaside Amusement Area Bowery or Midway. Nunley was originally from the Staten Island area known as South Beach, where he partnered up with T. Murphy in the early 1900s. As partners they operated carousels in Staten Island, Seaside in Rockaway Beach, Canarsie in Brooklyn, Broad Channel in Queens, Yonkers in New York, Baldwin on Long Island, Rockaways’ Playland in 1939, and on the southwest corner of Beach 98 Street from 1946 to the 1960s. According to the family historian, Frank Pierce, Broad Channel's carousal went to Willowbrook Hospital in Staten Island, for the children there.

William Nunley died in 1951 and his wife Miriam (whom he met on the Big Wheel in Seaside, and later married) carried on. Small parks with carousels were also opened in Plainedge and Baldwin on Long Island. Timothy Murphy retired in 1949, and for those interested, a Murphy & Nunley Carousel can be seen and ridden at Forest Park (from Staten Island) and the Baldwin wheel at McArthur Park in Nassau County, or at the Cradle of Aviation Museum Complex Nearby. Call first before going as a general rule!
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