Albany Historic Carousel & Museum
Magic and discovery… it’s the perfect recipe in Albany, Oregon—a community where history and heritage meld with artisanal restaurants and scenic wonders to create a destination unlike most others. And later this summer, the long-awaited Albany Historic Carousel & Museum is awakening from its fairytale slumber.
Located in the heart of Albany’s picturesque downtown district and nearby Willamette River, the newly constructed carousel is a testament to dreaming big. From humble beginnings, its story is one that should inspire communities across the globe.
A dedicated community rebuilds history
Fifteen years ago, Albany dreamer Wendy Kirby started the carousel project with a vision and a $150 donation from the Albany resident Stella Reimers. That simple act spiraled into a full-blown non-profit association that attracted volunteer artisans and sponsors from around Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Kirby’s efforts spun outwards like the spokes of a wheel—and fundraising for the project spanned more than a decade and a half. A master woodcarver was hired to help teach others how to shape fanciful creatures from basswood, professional painters helped volunteer artists embellish the animals with colorful details such as rosettes and saddles, and a dedicated construction project manager was corralled.
The carousel workshop became a beehive of community activity as “lions and tigers and bears” came to life under loving hands. While the artists worked, their studio was housed in temporary locations until enough money was raised to build a permanent home on the corner of NW Washington Street and W First Avenue.
The father of the American carousel and his multi-state connection
As word spread about Albany’s carousel, a member of the Gustav Dentzel family living in Port Townsend, Washington, contacted the Albany Carousel & Museum Board. It was a moment of serendipity—Gustav Dentzel was the son of a German wagon and carousel builder and is credited with bringing carousels to America in the late 1800s. He and his brother’s factory in Pennsylvania produced many a carousel and mechanism in the Victorian Era.
Stored beneath a tarp in Santa Barbara, California, an original wooden and cast iron Dentzel mechanism was peaceably rusting away. Its wooden teeth had been shaped from old-growth pine, but required a bit of modern “dentistry” and tender loving care.
Kirby and her team arranged to haul the mechanism on a 40-foot flatbed trailer to its new home in Albany. It took local engineers and mechanics 10 years to rebuild the motor—carefully replacing broken wooden teeth and iron gears. The refurbished 100-year-old Dentzel mechanism will now drive Albany’s carousel for generations to come.
A building worthy of housing Albany’s menagerie
An architectural marvel, the carousel’s new building―a 22,000-square-foot multi-purpose space―will house the 24-foot tall carousel, its band organ, carver workshop, concession area, retail gift shop, museum, and meeting and event rooms. Weddings, family reunions and birthday parties will be right at home in the welcoming facility.
The main carousel room boasts a phenomenal 44-foot-tall ceiling with arched glulam beams, and a 90-foot wide dodecagon (12-sided) shape. For comparison, the Albany building is four times the size of a sister carousel located in Salem, Oregon.
When the Albany Historic Carousel opens its doors to the public, 32 of its 51 animals will be completed, as well as one of two planned gondolas. Since each animal takes nearly four years to complete, the carvers and painters will continue their work over the next decade. Two workshop rooms will be under full view of visitors. The carousel’s hand-carved animals—from giraffes to imaginary dragons, will circle atop a revolving deck to the accompaniment of a thumping custom-made band organ.
If you love carousels, make plans to visit Albany—and be among the very first to ride this amazing work of art. We welcome everyone to our bright and spirited community where dreams really do come true.
What you need to know when you go
- Grand Opening: The Albany Historic Carousel & Museum is slated to open on July 25, 2017. It will be open seven days a week and most holidays except for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
- Admission: Check the carousel’s website for detailed information about hours and ticket prices.
- Parking: Parking is available in front and on the sides of the carousel building, as well as NW Washington and W First Avenue.
- Food: Concessions will be available—hot dogs, popcorn, snacks and soft drinks. If you’re looking for a more substantial meal, there are many restaurants located within walking distance.
- Disability access: The carousel has been designed to accommodate all, so if your child or adult member of the family needs wheelchair or other access to the carousel deck, it can be accomplished with absolute ease and confidence.
Contact: For a more detailed history, images of animals and artisans, building updates and ticket prices, visit the Albany Historic Carousel & Museum website at http://albanycarousel.com or telephone 541-791-3340.