Albany Carousel: Riding the Winds of Change

Riding the Winds of Change at Albany Carousel

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Albany isn’t far from major cities in Oregon, such as Portland, but visiting the newly opened Albany carousel can be a step back in time. Read our original article written three years ago during the construction of the volunteer-led project for history on the making of the carousel and the art of menagerie making in the United States.

Stepping Back in Time with the Albany Carousel

Historic carousel replica
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Riding a carousel is a lot like, well, riding a horse—unless you’re seated atop a pinstriped pachyderm or even a sleek and silver greyhound. There is something about circling the carousel track as the pumping band organ plays that takes you back in time.  That’s over a century of history you’re traveling, pocked by two world wars and the great depression, back to an era of artistry and craftsmanship.

The modern, pony-packed carousel has deep roots in the turn of the century amusement hey-day.  It’s estimated that more than 4,000 carousels were produced during the years leading up to the great depression, when stylized ponies and menagerie  animals were  hand crafted by a select and formidable group of American master carvers.

Now, less than 200 original carousels are in operation, and some of these no longer maintain the full set of initial menagerie.  In an effort to preserve the artistry and craftsmanship of years gone by,  The Historic Albany Carousel Museum is resurrecting the Coney Island wonder of yesteryear in a volunteer-led effort set to strike up the Band Organ in 2017.

At Home in a Historic Setting—Volunteers Lead the Way

Master carver at work on Albany carousel managerie
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Albany prizes its history. A quick glance at the town’s visitor page reveals some deep roots, from homes holding tight to revival-style traditions, through covered bridges and into vintage-style trolley tours.  Though inspired by a similar venture in Missoula, Montana, the Albany carousel venture is quite at home in the downtown district of the town's west end.

According to Gwen Marchese, former New England native and master painter on the project, many workers have never wielded a chisel or held a paintbrush before joining the volunteer effort, and yet the results rival any carver of the Coney Island era.

Animals on the Albany Carousel begin life as nothing more than a block of wood, cut to the rough size and shape of the finished creation.  Carvers work from a stylized illustration, whittling out muscle, hair and intricate details in a process that can take up to two years to accomplish.

Painters are volunteers as well, educated by Marchese on the process of hand-stippling the acrylic coat for dimension and a life-like brushless finish.  The entire process is lengthy, and according to Marchese, not everyone is cut out for the job.  The hand-stippling is a painstaking process, but the depth of color and lifelike appearance are well worth the effort.

Albany Carousel: Coming to Life in 2017

New Albany Carousel in action
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Though the menagerie animals take center stage, it’s the mechanized platform that that will bring them to life.  Donated by  the great grandson of master carver, Gustave Dentzel, the Albany Carousel’s platform  is from a 1909 carousel of his manufacture.  When complete, the platform will house  52 animals.

It currently resides at a temporary location and is on display to guests by appointment most Saturday afternoons.  For those stout of heart and not afraid of heights, it’s a good time to climb atop the carousel canopy and see the mechanism in action.  Several finished creations are currently on display at the workshop located on the future carousel site in downtown west Albany and at various stores around the town.

The Historic Albany Carousel Museum is open:

through Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday

10:00 AM to
4:00 Pm

Wednesday 10:00
am to 9:00 pm

To schedule group tours or to view past, present or future work not on display, contact the museum: (541) 791-3340

Back to the Present

Giraffe on the Albany Carousel
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After over 160,000 hours of  volunteer work, the Historic Carousel Museum opened its newly-renovated doors on August 17, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. Crowds still stretched around the building at 1:00 pm.

Interest remains high across neighboring communities, but the Albany carousel continues to attract  tourists as well, logging visitors from every state in the nation and many island destinations.

Admission to the Albany Carousel museum is free. On weekends and select week days, expect to find master carvers and painters at work. They're always ready to answer questions and explain the process, so take a minute to stop by.

Ride tokens are $2.00 a piece and can be purchased onsite at the museum. Keep your eye on the museum's event page for ride-free days. Wearing a certain color will get you a complimentary spin on the managerie of your choice.

The museum can be booked for personal and corporate events, so expect extra crowds on weekends when birthday parties are most common.  Volunteers also host special community events, such as ceramic painting or a teddy bear
luncheon, so again, check the events page to make sure you don't miss something special.

The museum is currently open Wednesday through Sunday, starting at 10:00 am. Closing time is usually 5:00 pm except on Saturdays when the carousel runs until 7:00 pm.

If visiting the museum has you wishing you'd been able to take part in the creative process, you can still volunteer your time. With such an active environment, managerie wear down over time and need to be refurbished. As a result, museum carvers and painters are always at work, crafting new figures or refurbishing the originals. Contact the museum for more information.


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Albany, OR

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1-2 hours

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Thompson Mills- 24 minutes away

Living Rock Museum 28 minutes away

Salem Carousel 38 minutes away

DAX the Robot- 28 minutes away

Beazell Memorial Forest- 40 minutes away

McDowell Creek Falls- 50 minutes away


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