After more than a decade in storage, the historic Jantzen Beach Carousel has found a new home in The Dalles.
The 95-year-old carousel has been stuck on Restore Oregon’s list of most endangered places since 2012 when Jantzen Beach Mall closed.
Finding the carousel a new home has proved difficult. It will be expensive to restore — about $4 million — and it needs an entire building in which to operate.
But Stephanie Brown with Restore Oregon said the National Neon Sign Museum in The Dalles is a good fit.
“It is in a pretty high-traffic area right along I-84,” Brown said. “There are cruise ships that dock there four blocks from the museum. They get just lots and lots of foot traffic.”
The museum already owns land to build a pavilion for the carousel and it has the necessary infrastructure, like a gift shop and ticket booth. Brown said the museum also has a functioning workshop.
“Part of the museum’s mission is to restore vintage signs. They have painting and gold leaf facilities already in place, which is just unheard of. And they have enough space for carving as well,” she said.
Attractions like Albany’s Historic Carousel and Museum have found that visitors enjoy watching carpenters restore the hand-carved horses almost as much as riding the carousel.
Several towns and nonprofits have been bidding to take the Jantzen Beach Carousel since the pandemic ended. But, Brown said, the National Neon Sign Museum in The Dalles was the best fit.
“Their previous preservation success in restoring the historic Elks Lodge, which houses their collection, gives us every confidence that the carousel will thrive under their stewardship,” said Nicole Possert, executive director of Restore Oregon.
Oregonians likely won’t be able to ride the carousel for at least a few years. First, the museum has to build the pavilion and put the whole thing together.
Currently, the carousel is stored in an undisclosed warehouse in North Portland. It weighs approximately 20 tons, has a diameter of 67 feet and is 28 feet tall. There are four rows of 72 horses plus another 10 spare horses.
The Oregon Historical Society is currently running an exhibit about the carousel, which closes Sept. 24.
The carousel was fully restored in 1995. But after 17 years of heavy use and over a decade in storage, it requires cleaning, repainting and significant repairs.
The National Neon Sign Museum boasts one of the largest collections of neon storefront signs in the world. It describes its mission as capturing the history and culture that shaped America, through the lens of the signage industry.