Friday, January 7, 2011

Brookside Park Carousel House Before the Wrecking Ball

The Brookside Park Carousel House, framed by dumpsters and orange caution fencing.

I could not believe that this building was going to be destroyed! I decided to take my daughters to the park on a cold January day to take some farewell photos.

This beautiful old carousel building in my adopted town will meet the wrecking ball sometime this month. The building is not a victim of suburban sprawl. It is a victim of powderpost beetles. These nasty little insects have been destroying the structure of the building. The building must be destroyed because of structural and liability issues.

The building used to house a classic wooden carousel back in its heyday during the late ninteenth century up until about 1939. The carousel was built by Gustav Dentzel, a German immigrant who started his business in Philadelphia. At the time a trolley ran from York to this popular little picnic grove. Bob Hoffman, founder of York Barbell Company and a member of the Weightlifters hall of fame purchased the park around 1940. From what I have read, the carousel was in operation until Hurricane Agnes caused severe damage to the structure and carousel in 1972. Mr. Hoffman donated the land and the park to the township and/or the YMCA adjacent to the park which bears his name.
I was told by members of the Greater Dover Historical Society that the carousel was sold to a large amusement park in California. I tried to do some internet research, but I could not find any evidence of the transfer of the Brookside Dentzel carousel. Some reports suggest that the carousel was dismantled. This horse was advertised on an antique vendor's site as a Brookside Park Dentzel original. The asking price is approximately $1500.
My children have fond memories of this park. It has been home to the old fashioned penny carnival, haunts in the park, pony rides and Girl Scout camp. We used the empty carousel building for craftmaking, cakewalks and halloween parties.

I have spent many hours of my free time researching this story. I have found more conflicting information than historical fact. I was thinking of painting a mural to honor the legacy of the carousel and the once glorious carousel house. When I tried to do some background research, I became a bit discouraged. Carousels are magical rides for small children. I have a picture of myself and my mom together on a carousel when I was very young! I tried to scan these in, but they need more editing.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting story, Anita. I wish you could find more history on it. It's sad that they have to knock it down, but perhaps in the future the local historical society could rebuild a replica? Sounds like a soapbox to jump on!!! ;)

Marilyn said...

How sad that it wasn't protected and restored for others to enjoy. This is a very interesting post.

Tattered and Lost said...

Just so sad to think of this place dying such a sad death where once families gathered and laughter was heard. As long as it lives in memories it's not completely gone. It's when it's forgotten that we need to mourn.

dive said...

What a crying shame, Neetzy. If only you could travel back fifty years with a big can of pest control chemicals. For the lack of a few dollars to treat the timber against beetle infestation a whole slice of your local history is being destroyed.
Deanna Banana's idea sounds great. A replica would not be too expensive for a community to build and could be used for all manner of local events.

Martin H. said...

So sad when these landmark buildings succumb to the demolition squad.

The hotel where we held our wedding reception was pulled down recently, after a devastating fire.

Meri said...

I love carousels and always find them a great subject for photography. One of my favorite shots of last year is a little girl throwing her arms up in exultation while she goes up and down, round and round.

Kat Mortensen said...

How very sad. Those darn beetles!
I think you should definitely do a mural for posterity. One day, I'm sure it will be an historical piece in a museum.


Don't know how it happened, but I wasn't "following" you. I've fixed that.
Love your profile pic, by the way.

neetzy said...

Thanks everyone for wonderful feedback!

Deanna - I plan to contact the historical society people.I checked their website but it just tells me to buy a booklet from them for five dollars. There is a proposal to build a replica! I attended a fundraiser several years ago for this carousel house. They did not know about the beetles at the time.

Marilyn, I believe they did try to protect it. The borough rented it out for years. I just heard that it had to be demolished because the structural damage was so severe.

Tattered. It is so sad. This is why I want do paint a mural.

Dive, If only I could time travel.

Martin, It is amazing what memories these old buildings hold for us. If only we could keep all of them.

Meri, What an appropriate name for a carousel lover! I have always loved carousels. I have photo of me on what was very likely my first carousel ride. I hope to post before next week.

I'm in the gathering stage. This beautiful old building is calling to me! Not too surprised you were no longer following me as I haven't written much in the last six months or so. My bad. Glad to hear from you!

L. D. Burgus said...

It would be great if they rebuilt a new one and found a new carousel for it. Story City, Iowa has a wonderful one that they have preserved and built the building for it.

Alan Burnett said...

This is a fine and creative Sepia Saturday post. I do think that we have a responsibility to record buildings like this before they vanish forever - record them in both images and words. It is great that Sepia Saturday can be a repository for such records.

Nancy said...

Oh, Anita, it breaks my heart when I learn of beautiful old buildings being torn down (no matter the necessity of it). There is a town an hour or so away from us that has a carousel in a building similar to this. It is almost magical, as I'm sure this one was when the carousel was operating inside. Can't you just imagine what it was like in the '30s? I hope you're able to find enough information to do a painting. Great post. Thanks.


this post inspires me to do the same on my blog next week as we lost a landmark last week here in Montreal... i went to take pictures and i did a little research already, to remember the building's past glory.

thanx 4 sharing!!

Karen S. said...

Sorry to hear it has to be taken down, but treasure the memories and perhaps other photos through the years, without dumpsters...thanks for sharing this!

neetzy said...

L.D. They want to rebuild it, but I'm sure it would be very expensive to build something like that today. This will take a lot of community fundraisers.

Alan, Thank you. I hope to keep its memory alive with some sort of painting. The idea came to me when my daughter came home from college and said. "This town square needs a mural".

Nancy, I always thought this building was magical even though I never saw the carousel! I thought it would be a great place for a wedding or some other feast! Carousels have been magical to me since Mary Poppins!

Ticklebear! I had to take this photo before it was gone. I read that it was getting demolished in January and ran out to get some photos. I look forward to seeing your post!

Karen S. I framed the carousel house with the dumpsters for "effect". I do have photos without the dumpsters, but I think I got my point across. Hopefully a painting and maybe a mural will come in the future.

Pat transplanted to MN said...

how sad to read of its destruction; and by "bugs" no less. I remember many similar structures at parks in PA while I was growing up; several still stand. I think next trip I will photo them. I always loved carousels, still do. Such an interesting read with the facts you did find through research. Painting a mural would be wonderful; does the town have a historical society that could get involved??

neetzy said...


Yes the historical society wants to rebuild it. Hopefully that will happen!

I drove by today and the Carousel House was gone.