B&B's horses gallop off to restoration
Bishoff and Brienstein Carousell horses wait to be shipped for restoration. (Photos by Jed Kim)
Fifty ornate carousel horses sat in a warehouse in the Brooklyn Army Terminal Tuesday morning, waiting to be shipped to a new location. Even under wraps, their bright blues, reds and greens cheered the dusty workspace, and the horses looked alive enough to breathe, to whinny, to buck and kick their marble eyes rolling forward, their hooves never quite touching the ground as they pounded around an unending track.
I think theres something innate about the carousel, going back to childhood, said John Krawchuk, director of historic preservation for New York Parks and Recreation. People love to tell me a happy memory of coming to ride the carousel.
New York is losing one of its icons, the Bishoff and Brienstein Carousell; but the iconic attraction will return to Coney Island in a new home at the Steeplechase Pavilion in about two years. Today, its many dismantled pieces were loaded onto a truck headed for Marion, Ohio, where they will be restored by Todd Goings, a renowned expert in carousel restoration.
Even with the carousel horses standing motionless in a silent room, its easy to imagine riding one.
John Krawchuk, director of historic preservation for New York Parks and
Recreation, stands beside a Bishoff and Brienstein Carousell horse. (Jed Kim)
The red paint is smoothest on the saddle where thousands of childrens legs gripped and polished it to a dull sheen. You want to run a hand over a flank, but chunks of the wood have already fallen out; and you know you shouldnt touch it, even though you have an urge to reassure the horse as it waits to be nailed shut inside a crate alongside 49 of its brothers.
Last month, the New York City Economic Development Corp. awarded a $1.6 million contract to Goings company, Carousels & Carvings, Inc., for restoration of the historic ride. After the carousel reaches its destination, Goings and his team will test patches of the original paint and strip off years of touchup paint. Despite the numerous dings and scratches, Goings said the B&B Carousell is in excellent condition.
It just shows the degree of care it had before, said Goings. Some carousels had a harder life.
When Goings is finished, the carousel should have regained the glory it had when it was built in 1919. It will stand between the parachute jump and Keyspan Park, the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones.
In the past, Coney Island had as many as 25 wooden carousels running at the same time. The B&B Carousell has been a mainstay since 1932 and is the last carousel of its kind in Coney Island.
In 2005, the McCullogh family planned to put it up for auction to be sold piecemeal. However, the city struck an agreement with the family and purchased it outright for $1.8 million. The carousel was dismantled and put into storage shortly after the purchase.
In the carousel industry, the value of the parts is greater than the whole, said Lynn Kelly, president of the Coney Island Development Corp. We felt this was an important vestige of the citys past.
The restoration will be completed well before the rest of the Steeplechase project is finished. When the horses come back to New York after their makeovers, they will sit in another warehouse, waiting for their unveiling and triumphant return.
Carousel afficionados have felt the loss of the B&B Carousell. Some carousel-themed Web sites have mourned the loss of the iconic Carousell sign that used to mark the rides location. Krawchuk said that it would have been impossible to keep it.
We thought about taking the sign, but it was an integral part of the building, he said.
Despite the loss of the sign, Krawchuk said that most of the response towards the renovation has been positive.
Its been a big love fest around the carousel.
-- Jed Kim