Monday, November 14, 2011

A Ride Around Jane's Carousel: Brooklyn Bridge Park

Welcome to the first-ever guest blog post on The Smoking Nun... This past weekend, my dear pal of 30+ years Donna Mae Moose was in NYC for her twice-annual visit. Much more New York schlepping and photos to come: First up, Mae Mae tells us about Jane's Carousel...
By Donna Mae Moose Kendrick
Heading the wishlist for my fall trip to New York was seeing the historic, restored Jane’s Carousel, which just opened in September in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn Bridge Park, along the East River between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.

The merry-go-round was built in 1922, originally among the attractions at an amusement park in Youngstown, Ohio. Brooklyn resident Jane Walentas purchased the decaying carousel in 1984, and began the process of restoring it, scraping away decades of paint by hand with an Xacto knife, to reveal the original carvings, color palette and designs.

I had been reading about the process of restoration for months and was so excited to know that it would be up and running when I arrived in New York. Charles and I decided to go first thing Saturday morning. The night before was downright cold, but temperatures rose for the weekend into the low 60s… perfect for a trip into the past.

Jane’s Carousel is housed in a spectacular glass pavilion designed by Pritzker Prize-winning French architect Jean Nouvel. The walls act as accordion panels, which can be pulled back in warmer weather, opening the entire carousel to the summer air.

The online pictures I had seen of the carousel just didn’t do it justice. It comprises three rows of 48 beautifully carved horses and two fabulous chariots. It was obvious that attention was given to every detail. In addition, the scenery panels, rounding boards, crests, center pole and platform are all original to the carousel. It was truly breathtaking and a delight for the eyes.

There was a sign at the entrance that said, “Pony up/$2 to ride.” I was more than willing to do that as my inner child was ready to escape. It took a few minutes to convince Charles to buck up, but he humored me and agreed to ride. We bought our tickets—totally high-tech with a machine much like purchasing a subway pass. I found a trusty steed that would help return me to my childhood (at least in theory). I told Charles we had to have an “up and down” horse, as I called them when I was a kid. The exterior stallions are beautiful with expressive eyes and various grimaces and smiles, but they don’t move.

The ride began and the music surrounded us from the perfectly restored calliope as we went round and round and up and down. The view of the river, the bridges and the park magically spun around us. The ride was only a few minutes long, but I felt like I was transported to a simpler time when all that mattered was the moment.