July 15--SEASIDE HEIGHTS -- Mike Bache got finished riding the historic carousel at Casino Pier with his 2-year-old granddaughter Monday afternoon, not knowing it could be one of his last chances to enjoy the century-old attraction.
This fall, the carousel will be sold at auction by auctioneers from New York City-based Guernsey's, a nearly 40-year-old auction house. If the auctioneer cannot find a buyer interested in preserving the carousel intact, then the carousel risks being auctioned figure by figure and sold in individual pieces, officials said.
"This has been a landmark here for a while," said a shocked Bache, 44, of Lodi, after hearing the news that the carousel is being sold. "It's sad that it's being sold."
Maria Mastoris, spokesperson for Casino Pier, said the company will address the reason for sale at a press conference Monday. No date has formally been announced for the auction. It is the desire of the owners, as well as Guernsey's, for the carousel to be sold as a whole and remain intact, forever preserving this historic landmark for future generations, officials said.
The Casino Pier ride is not the only carousel from Ocean and Monmouth counties on the market. Asbury Park's old Palace Carousel still remains for sale on eBay for $250,000. A "Save the Old Palace Carousel from Asbury Park" group has formed, and is working to become a nonprofit entity, according to a post on its Facebook page. The carousel is owned by William Sitar, an Iselin-based developer who has worked on many projects in Asbury Park.
The Dr. Floyd L. Moreland Dentzel/Looff Carousel, as it's known, has been in Seaside Heights since 1932. Built in 1910, it was initially located at Burlington Island Park near the Delaware River. But a 1928 fire destroyed most of that amusement park, but only partially damaged the carousel. It was fixed, disassembled and moved to Seaside Heights at the height of the Great Depression.
It is named after Moreland, 71, who lives nearby in Toms River'sOrtley Beach section. Moreland oversaw the restoration of the badly deteriorated carousel in the 1980s. His friends and family members spent countless weekends inside the then-unheated carousel building in the off-season, painstakingly repairing more than 50 horses and two chariots as well as the two camels, one lion and one tiger that made up the merry-go-round's menagerie.
"I'm heartbroken," Moreland said Monday, upon hearing the news that the carousel is to be sold. "It's a very sad day for Seaside Heights."
A former classics professor, dean and vice president of student affairs at the City University of New York, Moreland first rode the carousel as a child, and began operating it at 17. His wages from his summer work as carousel operator paid for his college and also graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley.
Moreland said he believes it will be very difficult to sell the entire carousel as one intact piece. He said it's more likely the animals will be auctioned separately, much like what happened to the original horses from the Palace Amusements and Casino carousels in Asbury Park.
"I think it's been the soul of Seaside Heights, and generations of families have ridden it over the years," Moreland said. "All those memories and that continuity are gone without it."
Moreland said he could not estimate how much the carousel or its individual animals could bring at auction.
"There was a time when they could have gotten over $1 million for it," he said. "But now, in this economy, it's not worth nearly that much."
The Dentzel and Looff in the name refer to William H. Dentzel and Charles I.D. Looff, who carved the animals that are on the carousel. The carousel also contains a 1923 Wurlitzer organ, which was restored in 2001.
Bache is no stranger to the site, as a kid he used to run the ride.
"The area has changed over the years and this is another sign of it," said Bache. "I would be interested to see what happens. I wonder what they are going to do with the space."
Cost for a ride: $2.25 or 3 tickets
Total number of animals: 58. 35 moving horses, 18 stationary, 2 camels, 1 lion, 1 tiger
Total number of chariots: 2
Total number of lightbulbs: 2,016
Also has 15 original antique paintings from 1910 in center casing.
Source: Casino Pier
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