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Cass County Carousel

Updated on March 8, 2015
The Cass County Carousel is a National Historic Landmark
The Cass County Carousel is a National Historic Landmark | Source

The Cass County Carousel is located in Logansport Indiana's Riverside Park. A National Historic Landmark, it is over 100 years old, and the 42 animals were hand-carved by Gustav Dentzel. The animals include horses, reindeer, giraffes, goats, one lion, and one tiger. Dentzel carousels were the best around. The tails on the horses are made of real horsehair, and the reindeer have real antlers. It is called a "stationary" carousel, because the animals do not move up and down. Although Gustav Dentzl created over 7,000 carousels, very few are still around.

The Fort Wayne Years

The Cass County Carousel began operation at Robison Park near Fort Wayne, and was originally known as the Allen County Carousel. The park opened on the Fourth of July in 1896, and over 35,000 people visited on opening day. The park was developed by the local trolley company to increase their business (Another Indiana trolley company tried a similar strategy, operating an amusement park at what would become Mounds State Park in Anderson). They purchased a 250 acre farm a few miles north of Fort Wayne. Robison Park was open during the summer, and it had a number of attractions, including the carousel. The park also booked acts such as high wire walkers and hot air balloonists. Cruises on the St. Joseph River aboard the steamboat Clementina were also available.

Both the trolley business and the amusement park business declined with the rise of the automobile. Robison Park closed in 1919, and many of the rides were moved to another park in the Fort Wayne area. The carousel was sold and moved to Logansport.

Restoration

After the last private owner died in 1969, it was idle until purchased by the Logansport Jaycees in 1972. Shortly afterward, Cass County Carousel, Inc. was formed to manage and maintain the carousel. By 1993, they had raised enough money to have the carousel properly restored. The restorers found a couple surprises while performing their work. On the chariots, original artwork with swans and cherubs were found underneath orange paint. The black panther turned out to actually be a tiger. When the carousel was privately operated, the owner told his son to repaint the animals. The son did so, but when he came to the tiger, he saw a problem. Realizing his limited artistic skills, he knew he would not be able to get the stripes right. So he decided to change it into a black panther. The restorers turned him back into a tiger, but some carousel patrons still ask, "What happened to that black panther?" Also during restoration, scenes from Logansport's history were painted on the panels at the top of the carousel. These were originally used for advertising. Although the carousel has been outdoors during most of its existence, a building was erected for it after restoration. The building features lots of glass, so one still has the feeling of being outside. Not something just to be admired, the carousel is still operated, and it continues to delight children of all ages. Rides cost 75 cents.

Gustav Dentzel

Gustav Dentzel came to America in 1864 at the age of twenty
Gustav Dentzel came to America in 1864 at the age of twenty | Source

The Dentzel Family

Gustav Dentzel was born in Germany and came to America in 1864. He found the Dentzel Carousel Company in Philadelphia. In 1927 the company folder after the death of Gustav's son William. William's nephew, William II, became a lawyer, but later made some small carousels. Today, his son, William III continues the family business in Port Townsend, Washington.

Other Gustav Dentzel Carousels

Burlington North Carolina has a Gustav Dentzel carousel that was built somewhere between 1906 and 1910. It was purchased in 1948 from an amusement park in Ohio. It was restored between 1981 and 1985.

Glen Echo Park, located in Glen Echo Maryland, also has a Dentzel carousel. Their carousel was built in 1921. In 2003, it began operating in Glen Echo Park after a 20 year restoration effort. There is a book available that describes the restoration process at http://bcgpub.com/carousel/. It has 152 pages and over 500 color photos.

Glen Echo Park's 1921 Dentzel Carousel
Glen Echo Park's 1921 Dentzel Carousel | Source

Logansport Bicycle Trails

Logansport has a number of short bicycle trails near Riverside Park. The Eel Run Trail runs along the south side of the Eel River, which is the same side Riverside Park is on. The Cole Bridge was dedicated on July 18, 2014. This bridge connects the Eel Run Trail with the River Bluff Trail, which runs along Eel River's north side. The Hervey Preserve Trail joins the River Bluff Trail near the Cole Bridge. Here's a map showing the three trails.

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