Few things conjure up the magical memories of childhood as much as a carousel ride, and Nunley's Carousel, with its bumpy history, including its almost mythical rescue is no exception. The ride is set on Museum Row amid the Long Island Children's Museum, the Cradle of Aviation museum, and Nassau County Firefighter's Museum, there is simply no excuse not to saunter on over and go for a spin; again and again and again.
Anyone in doubt of a carousel's ability to inspire need just speak to eleven-year-old Rachel Obergh. She had often heard her parents speak nostalgically of riding Nunley's carousel in Baldwin, but the amusement park it was in shut down before she was born. The first-grader was granted access to see the carousel her parents spoke so fondly of. Sitting inside a hangar in Mitchell Field,it was in dire need of repair and a new home. The county had purchased the property, recognizing its historical significance, but was dragging its feet on what to do with it. That's when Rachel came up with her inspiration she called "Pennies for Ponies." She launched a website and a dream. Individuals, organizations and schools were invited to symbolically adopt one of the 41 horses and one lion making up the carousel for $2,000. In exchange, they were able to choose a name for their animal. Shortly thereafter, each of the 42 animals were adopted and named. Seeing how many people were interested in preserving the carousel, the county rose to the occasion and pledged $1 million to restore the beloved carousel. Thanks to Rachel and Nassau County, visitors can now climb aboard in any weather and revel in a dream. Giddy up!
In 1905, recent immigrants, fleeing anti-Semitism in Russia, Solomon Stein and Harry Goldstein, started the Artistic Carousel Company in Brooklyn, NY.. While visiting the carousel, run your fingers along the hand carvings. Notice the intensity of the eyes and the elaborate decorations each animal wears. the majesty of the lion is truly humbling. Today, there are only three carousels created by Stein and Goldstein still running, although you can find individual pieces for sale on Ebay. The carousel in Central Park and the Bushnell Park Carousel in Hartford, Ct. were also designed by Stein and Goldstein.
In 1912, Murphy's Carousel opened along the Brooklyn waterfront. In 1938, it was condemned by the city of New York, because a new highway, the Belt Parkway, was commissioned to be built right through the park. Plans were made for the carousel to be auctioned off, and it was purchased by Nunley's Amusements. In 1940, the carousel reopened as Nunley's Carousel. After 60 years there, and much to the disappointment of countless fans, Nunley's Amusements closed its doors and once again the carousel was at risk of being dismantled. Nassau County then purchased the carousel, in walked Rachel Oberg and now he beautifully restored carousel is open to the public for $2 bucks a ride.
41 Horses and One King
There is one lion aboard the carousel and no one seems to know the exact history of this, but some suspect it has something to do with Jewish mythology. It seems the Roman Caesar Hadrian once asked a rabbi to show him this mythical lion that was said to have originated in a mythical forest. The rabbi refused, claiming this was no ordinary lion and he could not be killed and brought to Caesar. The Roman Caesar insisted, so the rabbi called for the lion. The lion roared once and all the city walls of Rome crumbled. Then he came closer and roared again and the front teeth and molars of Roman men fell out.
Go for the Gold
The word carousel is said to have originated from the Spanish, carosella, meaning little battle. The first carousels, invented in 500AD were used to train crusaders in battle. While riding mechanical wooden horses crusaders practiced their marksmanship by trying to spear a golden ring. You can purchase a gold ring at Nunley's carousel.
In addition to the fine craftsmanship of the horses, be sure to take notice of the murals in the center of the carousel. As the carousel turns you're treated to a glimpse of old-time Long Island as you view several historical places. You can see Theodore Roosevelt in Oyster Bay and horse drawn carriages along 25A. Each mural is hand-painted from old photographs.
Choose from a variety of themes, including the Wizard of Oz, Rough Riders or have a princes-themed party. Party games and a craft are theme-based. Parties include pizza soda and invitations. Add-ons at the cradle of aviation are also available. Call 516-572-4066 for reservations and rates.
Historic Nunley's Carousel
Charles Lindbergh Blvd.
Garden City, NY 11530
Saturday, Sunday and holidays 12–5pm
$2/ride, all riders must have a ticket