News Column

How much is the Seaside Heights carousel worth?

July 22, 2014

By Nicholas Huba, Asbury Park Press, N.J.

July 22--SEASIDE HEIGHTS -- As Kathy Caruso rode Marie, one of the carousel horses at Casino Pier, she realized Monday could be her last visit to the amusement ride.

Last week, the owners of Casino Pier, which include Vincent Storino and his family, decided to sell their iconic carousel in an auction.

Since childhood, Marie was the only carousel horse for Caruso of the ride's more than 50 horses, all of which have names.

"It's my favorite horse," said Caruso, 60, of Marco Island, Fla. "I've even have a replica of the horse at home. I cried when I heard about it. I can't believe it's going to be gone."

On Monday, the carousel owners issued a prepared statement about the sale and blamed the economy for their decision.

"Gratefully, this historic carousel withstood the ravages of superstorm Sandy and the terrible fire that engulfed part of Seaside's boardwalk less than a year later," the statement read. "Current market conditions, however, made it clear that all would be best served if this national treasure were to find a new home."

The owners did not attend a media event Monday at Casino Pier hosted by Arlan Ettinger, president of Guernsey's, the New York-based auction house that will conduct the sale of the Dr. Floyd L. Moreland Dentzel/Looff Carousel, it's official name.

The idea of selling the carousel started to develop right after superstorm Sandy left its mark on the Jersey Shore two years ago, Ettinger said.

"This carousel is a treasure, a treasure to Seaside Heights, a treasure to New Jersey and it's a national treasure," he said. "Recognizing that the family that owns it felt they were doing the right thing by wanting to preserve this forever, by letting it be placed in a situation out of harm's way."

And the carousel could be worth millions of dollars.

Ettinger said he expects Casino Piers' carousel to fetch more than B&B Carousel from Coney Island, which was sold to New York City for nearly $2 million in 2005. The Coney Island sale was also handled by Guernsey's, Ettinger said. No minimum price has been place on the sale, he said.

"The Coney Island Carousel had 40 figures. This one has more than 50. It was in rough condition, this is in great condition," Ettinger said. "This is in the $3 million ballpark, if not more."

Since news of the auction was announced, some people have taken to social media sites such as Facebook, in an effort to convince the owners to keep the attraction.

The carousel holds a lot of memories for Caruso.

"My older sisters, in order to keep me occupied, would give me a handful of dimes so I could ride it," she recalled Monday after riding the carousel. "When I come here, I always make sure that I ride it."

In the fall, the carousel will be sold at auction by the 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.

The attraction will continue to operate until the auction, officials said.

Ettinger said Monday he would rather see the carousel sold in one piece.

"If we would sell these figures one-by-one, presumably there would be 58 households with the figures and others who would bid on the decorations, so there would be about 100 happy campers," he said. "By keeping this together and letting this continue to operate this way, albeit somewhere else, there will be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people who will continue to enjoy it."

The carousel has been in Seaside Heights since 1932. Built in 1910, it initially was located at Burlington Island Park near the Delaware River. A 1928 fire destroyed most of that amusement park, though only partially damaged the carousel. It was fixed, disassembled and moved to Seaside Heights at the height of the Great Depression.

The ride is named after Floyd 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.

READERS MEMORIES OF THE CASINO PIER CAROUSEL

--"In 1977, my parents purchased a condominium on the North end of the Boulevard. By this time, I was married, had small children and I went on the carousel with them every year. Even at my age, I am in awe of beauty and wonder of the carousel. I sincerely hope this million-memory maker remains on Casino Pier."

Bernadette Hilway, 66, of Totowa

--"I had the privilege of being born and raised in Seaside Heights so I have many wonderful memories of the carousel. It is like an old friend to me who is always there. I was about 10 years old when the Casino Arcade hosted a Christmas Village up in the old Italian Village. The carousel was all decked out for Christmas with garlands and wreaths around the horses' necks along with a Santa Clause handing out candy canes. It was such a treat to ride the carousel in the winter time."

Maryanne Smith VanDeventer, 49, of Toms River

--"In 2008, I had never been to New Jersey, but was beginning to kindle a long-distance relationship with a New Jersey native, Joseph. On my first trip to visit him there, he gave me two choices of something to do together. Since I have an interest in both roller coasters and antique carousels, one plan was to go to Great Adventure, and the other to Casino Pier. I had heard of Great Adventure but did not know what Casino Pier was until he explained that he thought there were some small roller coasters and an antique carousel there. I chose to go to the pier, and I'm so glad I did. We had a golden day together, one of a handful of best memories of my life. On New Year's Day 2012, Joseph proposed to me next to it. Afterward, we exited the arcade into the night, and lightning was cracking in the sky. Lightning, over a snowy landscape: the carousel always made that kind of magic for us."

Heather M. N. Kendrick, 39, of Lansing, Mich.

--"My family didn't have much money so the rule was three rides only and the carousel. Even as a teen, I would ride the carousel each summer. Naturally, my children rode the carousel as soon as they could sit on the horse on their own. When dating my husband, I took him to the carousel and so it was only natural that when we married April 5, we make a special trip to Seaside Heights and got our picture taken on the carousel."

Gina Olkowski, 48, Newark, Del.

___

(c)2014 Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.)

Visit the Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.) at www.app.com

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Source: Asbury Park Press (NJ)


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