Hunting Park used to have a popular carousel. It lives on, nearly 500 miles away.
Philadelphians used to flock to the Hunting Park carousel that came from a shop of a famed family. Now, it can still be enjoyed at Cedar Point, an amusement park in Ohio.
Of all his coveted creations, this was among William H. Dentzel's favorites.
It was a stone's throw from his shop on Germantown Avenue near Erie Avenue. And each horse, made mostly from solid kiln-dried basswood and hand-painted so delicately that its veins protruded from its neck, took a man an entire week to make from start to finish.
But the ride that came from G.A. Dentzel Carousel Co., also known as Wm. Dentzel Co., is now found nearly 500 miles away from its earlier home in Hunting Park, where it stood for decades in the early to mid-1900s.
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"It was his showpiece," John Allen, president of the Philadelphia Toboggan Co., told the Evening Bulletin in 1967. The business acquired the carousel company after Dentzel's death in 1928, according to the Bulletin. "It was fairly close to his shop, and whenever he had prospective customers he would take them over to the park to see his masterpiece."
Gustav Dentzel, a German-born cabinetmaker who has been referenced as "the founder of the American carousel industry," opened the shop in 1876. Gustav's son, William, took over when he died in 1909. Its merry-go-rounds were seen across Philadelphia, from Strawberry Mansion to Point Breeze, the Bulletin reported.
There are discrepancies on exactly when the Hunting Park carousel was built, but it was around the beginning of the 20th century.
The question of why the Hunting Park carousel, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990, is no longer there was raised through Curious Philly, a question-and-response platform where readers can ask our journalists what they're wondering about.
As time passed, rising costs of general upkeep became too much for the Philadelphia Toboggan Co., the Bulletin reported. Plus, Allen just was no longer interested in the relic.
"We make roller coasters," he told the paper in 1967. "We aren't really in business to operate carousels."
Philadelphia Toboggan Co. is responsible for roller coasters stretching from Hershey Park to China. Carousels are included in its "active ride" portfolio, too, according to its website.
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The carousel could have become anyone's, really. A small advertisement found in the Oct. 29, 1967, issue of the Inquirer was simply titled "MERRY-GO-ROUND FOR SALE."
"We reluctantly offer this Merry-Go-Round for sale to a responsible buyer hoping to keep it operating as a complete Merry-Go-Round for the enjoyment of all," the ad read. "It can pay for itself & be very profitable. Terms can be arranged with good credit. Ideal business for young & old couples to operate for income."
The company's modest ask was answered. Cedar Point, an amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio, bought the carousel and opened it to the public 1968, according to Tony Clark, a spokesperson for Cedar Point.
"Fortunately, it has been beautifully restored," wrote Carl Dahlgren, a longtime Hunting Park community activist, in the Inquirer in 1998. "Philadelphia pilgrims to Ohio can mount a wooden steed and bask in memories on this beautiful time machine."
Dahlgren dubbed Philadelphia "the birthplace of the American carousel" — a city asleep "as the last functioning machine was removed from Hunting Park." Philadelphia went nearly four decades without an active carousel after the Hunting Park relocation, the Inquirer wrote in 2009.
But a quick search online for "Hunting Park carousel" won't be too fruitful. These days, it's known by a different name.
"Kiddy Kingdom Carousel."