Strictly Business: Waterfront would be a good home for carousel

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian Business Editor

Published:

 

Gordon Oliver, Columbian's business editor

The Jantzen Beach carousel is somewhere, but its owners aren’t telling us where. Their silence about the beautiful machine’s future sends a strong message that it won’t be coming back to its old Hayden Island haunt any time soon.

Maybe it’s just as well. Any trace of the old Jantzen Beach Amusement Park, the island’s main attraction from 1928 to 1970, is long gone. And Edens, the South Carolina commercial property firm Edens that owns the property, didn’t create a space for the carousel in replacing the old SuperCenter with a patchwork of big box islands surrounded by parking. Once home to a wooden roller coaster, swimming pools, and a house of mirrors, Jantzen Beach now is just a place to spend.

Since The Columbian’s report last month that the carousel’s whereabouts remains a mystery, one knowledgable reader said he believes the carousel remains intact. He speculated that its owners likely would welcome being rid of the giant work of art that’s unlikely to produce any profit.

But many long for a return of this treasure of our local history. The Jantzen Beach carousel is the only surviving example of five enormous “Carry-Us-Alls” that C.W. Parker Co, of Leavenworth, Kan., made for amusement parks. The carousel’s central beauty is in its 72 elaborately carved and one-of-a-kind horses, which are all depicted mid-gallop or mid-jump. It features over 1,500 lights and hundreds of carvings.

Of the approximately 1,000 carousels built by the C.W. Parker, historians say only 16 have survived. (The Oaks Amusement Park carousel in Portland was built around 1911 by the Herschell-Spillman company.)

If in fact Edens wants to unload its beautiful albatross, who would want it? Here’s an idea: giving the carousel a new home on Vancouver’s empty waterfront palate.

Certainly, the emerging waterfront will need an attraction or two to draw people to an area that for decades has offered nothing to visitors but the Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay. And we are feeling the loss of some of our local history, with the closure of the Red Lion and of the distinctly d?class? Steakburger, among other hangouts.

It shouldn’t be a dealbreaker that our waterfront is across the river from the site where the carousel spent most of its history. After all, the London Bridge was moved to Arizona in 1971. With easy freeway access, the carousel could become a draw for travelers who might stick around long enough to spend time and money in the city.

The Port of Vancouver, which is redeveloping its Terminal One site, is looking for suggestions for its waterfront development. It will spend months, even years, looking at ideas. Surely, saving the Jantzen Beach carousel from its secret storage site and giving it the honor it deserves is a worthy addition to the suggestion box.