PORTLAND — A five-year mystery about the future of the C.W. Parker Four-Row Park Carousel — better known as the Jantzen Beach Carousel — has come to a happy conclusion.
Restore Oregon, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving historic buildings, announced on Thursday that it has taken ownership of the carousel and is seeking a new, permanent home for the ride.
“We have here a wonderful opportunity to make more memories for generations to come,” said Restore Oregon Executive Director Peggy Moretti at a press conference.
The Jantzen Beach Carousel was built in 1904 for the St. Louis World’s Fair, and spent some time in Venice, Calif. before becoming a part of the Jantzen Beach Amusement Park in 1928. The park closed in 1970, but the carousel–believed to be one of the oldest and largest of its type in the world–was renovated and installed in the Jantzen Beach Center following the mall’s completion in 1972. It is the last survivor of five large carousels built by the legendary C.W. Parker, who was known as the “amusement king.”
When the shopping center was remodeled in 2012, the carousel was dismantled and stored in a warehouse, where it remains today. Later that year, amidst rumors that the carousel would never be reinstalled or had been sold, Restore Oregon added it to its Most Endangered Places list.
Jantzen Beach Center was sold to Kimco Realty in July 2017, and shortly afterward, its former owner, Edens, approached Restore Oregon with an offer to donate the Jantzen Beach Carousel — an offer that was finalized on Sept. 1 when Restore Oregon officially took ownership.
The carousel weighs 20 tons, has a diameter of 67 feet, and needs to be housed in a building at least 100 feet by 100 feet with a center clear span of 73 feet. It features 72 carved wooden horses.
A few unanswered questions remain: Moretti invited local businesses and nonprofits on both sides of the river to suggest new locations for the carousel within the Portland metropolitan area. She also added that Restore Oregon does not intend to maintain the carousel forever, and ultimately hopes to transfer ownership to an organization that is able to.
With more than 40 acres of property along the Columbia River in development, Vancouver could feasibly carve out some space. However, backers of the two main projects there did not seem interested Thursday.
“It doesn’t look like something we’re going to pursue for the waterfront, based on the master plan we’ve already submitted to the city,” said Magan Reed of the Port of Vancouver, which is developing its mixed-use plaza at Terminal 1 near the former Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay.
Likewise, Barry Cain, president of Gramor Development, said he had not given much thought to the carousel. Cain, Gramor and a group of private investors are spearheading a 32-acre site of office towers and restaurants known as The Waterfront Vancouver.
“I don’t think we’d be jumping on that, but who knows,” he said.
Whatever the carousel’s future, Moretti is just happy to help honor its past, and the special place it holds in the memories of countless families.
“What I’ve heard from people is that it was a generation-spanning experience,” Moretti said. “Of all of our endangered places, we’ve had the most chatter online about this one.”