Amusement Pride

Dear Ace: What’s up with that carousel at the east end of the Downtown Mall? I’ve never seen another one like it.—Merrily-Going-Around-Charlottesville

That’s because, according to New York/London appraisers Masterson-Gurr-Johns Inc., the little blue carousel on our mall is “the last known kiddy carousel in this country of its type.”

The attraction, featuring seven painted aluminum horses and a fabric canopy, is the property of the Virginia Discovery Museum, which received it as a gift from Fred W. Scott, Jr. of Bundoran Farm in North Garden. Since 2006, children have been enjoying the carousel nearly exclusively, because at nine-and-a-half feet across and eight-and-a-half feet high, it is a little too small for grown-ups to use.

The carousel, built in 1910, features William F. Mangels-commissioned aluminum horses, cast from ornate, painted woodcarvings of renowned carousel craftsman Marcus C. Illions. While Mangels and Illions worked together on other carousels, the one on the mall is evidently the last surviving example of their collaboration. Illions later began working independently, and would become best known for his three spectacular “Supreme” models, although each of these has been taken apart. However, a number of Illions carousels still operate, including one at the Agawam Amusement Park in Springfield, Massachusetts, and another at the zoo in Columbus, Ohio.

Following a five-year sponsorship by the Charlottesville Parking Center, in addition to the restoration efforts of artist Kathy Peace Bland, the carousel’s dedication ceremony took place on July 7, 2006. It has been open to the public during Discovery Museum hours, free of charge, ever since. 

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 21 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to ace@c-ville.com 

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