Remember the Jantzen Beach Carousel? The whirling, delightfully old-fashioned cavalcade of hand-carved horses that once stood at the center of an amusement park and later a shopping center? Thanks to the Oregon Historical Society, it’s back.
OHS, in partnership with the nonprofit historic preservation organization Restore Oregon, is presenting a Barnett & Solomon-curated exhibition titled “The Odyssey of the Historic Jantzen Beach Carousel.”
On view now through April 30, 2023, the exhibition reveals the history of the park and features four of the carousel’s horses, two of which have been restored and are on display for the first time in over a decade (there will also be historical photographs, objects, videos and a gallery of hand-printed silver gelatin photographs by architect and documentarian Harley Cowan).
“Restore Oregon is delighted to have participated in the creation of this exhibition over the past two years, and to have loaned many of the historic photographs and objects that help tell the…story of the Jantzen Beach Carousel,” stated Stephanie Brown, Jantzen Beach Carousel project manager at Restore Oregon, in a press release.
She added: “We are equally thrilled to share a behind-the-scenes look at the historic preservation process, and to celebrate the work of our talented team of artisans. Our hope is that all who visit this exhibition, whether they already love the Jantzen Beach Carousel or are discovering it for the first time, will enjoy this chance to learn about its history, craftsmanship, and the special place it holds in the hearts of generations of Pacific Northwesterners.”
The 123-acre Jantzen Beach Amusement Park (then the largest in the United States) opened on Hayden Island on May 26, 1928 (at the time, the area was dubbed the “Coney Island of the West”). The carousel, which was built by C. W. Parker and was originally designed for the J. A. Ellis Amusement Company for installation on the pier in Venice, Calif., was added that July.
The carousel featured 72 horses, and it is currently the last Parker Superior Park Model carousel known to exist. When the amusement park was demolished in 1970, it became the centerpiece of the new shopping center. After the pavilion where the carousel stood was demolished, the owners of the Jantzen Beach Center donated it to Restore Oregon, which has stored it since 2017.
The Oregon Historical Society’s museum is open 10 am to 5 pm Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 pm on Sunday. Admission is $10, with discounts for students, seniors, teachers, and youth (and free every day for OHS members and Multnomah County residents).