Sandy-Struck Shore Carousel Up For Auction

SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. (AP) -

The 82-year-old carousel on the Seaside Heights boardwalk survived Superstorm Sandy and a devastating fire, but it may not survive changing economics.

The company that owns the carousel is selling it to make room for new attractions. An auction is planned for fall, with the hope that a buyer will take the entire ride and prevent it from being broken up and sold off piecemeal.

The National Carousel Association says it’s one of only 212 classic wood carousels left in North America.

“We’ve had it for a long time, and it was very expensive to maintain and insure,” said Maria Mastoris, a spokeswoman for the carousel’s owners, the Storino family. “We recognize its contribution to the Seaside Heights community as well as the joy and excitement it has brought to the countless riders who have reveled in its magic and majesty for the better part of a century. Current market conditions, however, make it clear that all would be best served if this national treasure were to find a new home.”

The carousel was seen a wholesome family-friendly attraction. Debbie Ahr of Lawrenceville was saddened to learn the carousel would be sold.

“It’s a shame,” she said. “It’s a part of the history of the Jersey Shore. Oh, I feel so bad!”

Joann Laing of Palisades Park has ridden carousels all over the world, and loves the one in Seaside Heights.

“It’s a beautiful piece, all the hand carvings, hand-painted horses, tigers and camels,” she said. “It’s a real piece of history.”

The 1910 Dentzel model, hand-made by a Philadelphia family renowned for carousels, has 58 animals, 36 of which move up and down. It has two benches, and a Wurlitzer organ that operates with a pneumatic system using a leather bellows and perforated music rolls that play its individual notes. It has operated in Seaside Heights since 1932.

Arlan Ettinger, president of Guernsey’s, the New York firm that will handle the auction, said that during the golden era of carousels in the United States, from the mid-1890s through the 1920s, there were 5,000 such amusements nationwide. But then the Depression hit, and customers wanted scary thrill rides, and carousels began being removed.

“This carousel is a real survivor,” he said. “It’s one of the very last ones. If this were a car, it would be a Rolls Royce.”