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Saving A Balboa Park Treasure: The Carousel

The Balboa Park Carousel is shown in this undated picture.

Photo by Brooke Ruth

Above: The Balboa Park Carousel is shown in this undated picture.

One sign that summer is nearing its end is the shuttered doors during the week of the historic carousel in Balboa Park. After generations of family ownership, the 107-year-old carousel was purchased in July by the Friends of Balboa Park.

Now, the nonprofit group has launched a $3 million capital campaign to cover the cost of the acquisition and renovation of the carousel.

Executive Director John Bolthouse said maintaining the carousel’s history is important.

“The first thing we want to do is ensure we respect the integrity of the carousel and the entire site,” he said. “The carousel has so much history and we want to celebrate that. And the best way to celebrate that is to preserve it and to restore it back to its former glory.”

RELATED: First Person: Balboa Park Carousel Operator Has Worked There Since He Was 16, Now He’s 60

Friends of Balboa Park hired a historic architect and found two regional carousel experts to do an assessment. Pat Caughey is chair of the oversight committee for renovations, refurbishment and future plans for both inside and outside the carousel.

“What we came up with was a list of areas that needed improvements – typical things like termites, painting, general maintenance,” Caughey said. “We talked about enhancements in terms of painting the outside; we put the banners up. So, we also have a long-term goal of really enhancing the area around the carousel to kind of tie it all together.”

Bill Brown has worked on the carousel since 1972 when he was 16 years old. He is in charge of routine maintenance and painting, which is an annual undertaking. The new owners plan to keep Brown on so that he can continue regular maintenance.

Friends of Balboa Park is considering creating some additional seating on the outside — adding shaded areas to create more comfort and to be used for special events at the carousel.

“We want to put a little money aside to really activate this whole area of the park – really bring back that throw-back look of a historical amusement ride area of Balboa Park,” Bolthouse said.

The purchase of the carousel is the largest undertaking for the nonprofit, which was formed 19 years ago to preserve the history and beauty of the park. The goal is to reach $3 million needed by 2020.

One sign that summer is nearing its end is the shuttered doors during the week of the historic carousel in Balboa Park. After generations of family ownership, the 107-year-old carousel was purchased in July by the Friends of Balboa Park.

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