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Horses Of A Different Color To Be Sold At Auction
Take a free farewell ride on San Diego’s 113-year-old carousel.

A rare breed of endangered animals will take a final spin in San Diego on April 17th when the 113-year-old Seaport Village carousel will go on the auction block. It is one of the oldest and few remaining antique wooden carousels still operating in America.

For many generations carousel horses, revolving majestically to band organ music, summons wonderful memories of childhood. The Golden Age of the American carousel lasted 50 years, from 1880-1930. Sadly, of the more than three thousand hand carved wooden carousels built prior to the Great Depression, fewer than 70 of the grand “Park style” carousels like the one at Seaport Village still survive. Many folk art lovers regard wooden carousels as living museums. Hand carved carousel figures that once graced merry-go-round platforms are eagerly sought after by folk art collectors. Some single carvings have sold for more them $150,000. Several of the Seaport Village carousel dog carvings are thought to worth upwards of $50,000 each.

The maker of the Seaport Village carousel was Charles Looff a pioneer carousel artist. His first carousel was erected on Coney Island Beach in New York during the summer of 1876. His early carousels were exciting mixtures of menagerie figures (non-horses) plus the ever-popular horses. Looff was an early amusement park tycoon. He primarily built carousels that he operated himself, and then went on to California around 1909 where he built entire amusement piers in Santa Monica, Santa Cruz and Long Beach. His piers at Santa Monica and Santa Cruz still are in use. With his wife and six children they lived in the second floor of the carousel building on the old “ Long Beach Pike”.

The Seaport Village Carousel has had many owners since it was built around 1890. It operated briefly at Coney Island before moving to Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts. The carousel was the result of the combined talents of two immigrants – William F. Mangels and Charles Looff. Mangels was the reigning wizard of carnival rides. His company manufactured the carousel machinery with the hand-carved animals coming from Looff.

The 3-row flying horse machine carries 46 Looff animals, made up of 40 standing and jumping horses plus 3 magnificent dogs, and 3 unique goats. The non-horses are much more valuable then the equine carvings.

In 1933 the old carousel was converted from steam to electricity, and began operating it under the name of “Broadway Flying Horses” at Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts. Where is ran for over 40 years. In 1976, the carousel was sold and within a year moved to Seaport Village. Initial restoration efforts began in 1977 under the supervision of a professional carousel restorer. Many of the animals needed extensive repair that included stripping off several layers of “park paint” to expose the bare “bass” wood, missing parts were replaced. This accomplished, the animals were sealed, sanded, and painted with the final artistic paint they presently wear. Finally, the German, c.1914, 52-key, 175 pipe Gebruder Bruder Waldkirch Band Organ, which many fans consider the heart of the carousel was completely restored.

The Seaport Village Carousel opened for business during the summer of 1980 where it has delighted tourist and residents of San Diego daily for the past 24 years. In 2002, over a quarter million dollars was invested in the restoration of the century old carousel mechanism. Click on the web site to learn more about the restoration work by Brass Ring Entertainment. The carousel now operates as smooth at the day it was built and will hopefully provide another century of joy, which speaks well for the original makers.

The carousel will operate dally until the auction. The public is invited to come out and take a final free farewell ride for the first 50 children on the grand old carousel, beginning Saturday April 10 and each day until the auction, April 17th. Bring your kids and camera for a last ride before the carousel leaves San Diego forever.

Norton Auctioneers will sell the carousel. The 37-year-old Coldwater, MI. firm specializes in the sale of amusement parks, zoos and other important tourist attractions. Auctioneer, David Norton has personally auction off over 150 complete carousels. The Seaport Village carousel will be sold at absolute auction, without reserve, regardless of the final selling price.

Typically a carousel is worth more if the animals are sold off individually, but the owners want to see the historic machine stay intact. The Seaport Village Carousel will be sold as a complete unit that means the carousel will not be split up! One bid buys it all! Saturday, April 17th –1:00 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Bayside Hotel in San Diego. It is hoped the carousel will find a new home after leaving San Diego at a shopping mall, theme park or possible a museum.

There has even been some interest in returning it to its old home back in Massachusetts. A color brochure of the complete carousel and band organ is available from Norton Auctioneers by calling 517-279-9063 or for more information and detailed pictures go to their web site

Contact information:

David Norton

Norton Auctioneers of Michigan, Inc.

50 W. Pearl Street, Coldwater, MI 49036

Phone (517) 279-9063; Fax (517) 279-9191; Email: <>


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