The Art of the Forest Park Carousel
During previous tours of the Forest Park Carousel (see here and here) we have focused on the wonderful menagerie of horses and tigers that were hand carved by artist Daniel Muller over a hundred years ago. This update will focus on a different artistic aspect of our Carousel -- namely the beautiful painted panels that encircle the top of the ride. Once inside the carousel building, if you look up (towards the wooden roof) you will see various panels -- and on the most recent tour of the Carousel we took a little time to look at each individual panel.
The first panel is clearly a carousel -- but upon closer inspection it appears to be a painting of our carousel, the Forest Park Carousel.
We studied each horse and went through all the pictures we took -- look at the horse on the left and compare it to the horse below -- it's the same horse. And the one just behind it, mid-leap with a wild mane of hair looks the same.
Let's see a direct comparison -- yup, this is a painting of our Forest Park Carousel.
As it turns out, it appears that all of these panels have some local significance. We asked two of the Parks representatives who had done these paintings but they did not know. Our guess is that they were done during the restoration performed in the late 1980's, which was performed by carousel designer Marvin Sylvor. If anyone knows for certain, please let us know.
The next panel appears to us to be a shot of Forest Hills -- Continental Avenue -- quite some years ago from the looks of the cars.
Compare to a shot of today's Forest Hills --looks about right to us. If someone out there has a better idea, let us know.
We were lucky enough to walk around the inside of the carousel with local historian Allan Smith. He pegged this one right away as the original Forest Park Carousel, the one that burned down in the 1960s. What a beautiful print that would make -- would love to have that hanging on my wall.
Let's take a closer look -- first at the snack bar. In a word, fantastic. Short of taking a time traveling DeLorean back in time, this is the closest we may ever come to seeing and feeling what the atmosphere around the original carousel was like. The spotless counter, the white hat, the glass jar full of paper straws --
Here's a beautiful closeup of the right hand side of the painting -- looks like it was 5 cents per ride back then. I'm thinking that this painting was based on a photograph (you'll see what further down) -- meaning that the young girls, the woman, the young man, the guy at the snack bar -- they were all enjoying a day at the Forest Park Carousel -- seventy or eighty years ago from the looks of their clothing -- only to have that one brief moment of their lives captured forever and eventually mounted on the carousel.
The following is a beautiful rendering of the old Union Course Race Track which stood in Woodhaven through most of the 1800's. Sometimes over 70 or 80 thousand spectators came to Woodhaven to watch horse races -- amazing when you think of it --
Such vibrant colors -- and attention paid to each and every person --
It appears this was based on a contemporary sketch of Union Course -- a sketch in which you can see many more people, their carriages, and the hills of Woodhaven in the distance.
The next panel clearly shows Forest Park Drive -- but where? We drove through a few times today and didn't see an exact match.
The next panel is a little easier to identify -- Forest Park's famous Overlook Building at Park Lane South and 80th Road in Kew Gardens. It currently serves as the Headquarters for the Queens' Parks Department. For those whose interest in art is in the literature field, this is where the author Henry Miller was once employed and even did some of his writing (read more about it here).
It was called the Overlook because of the great view you had of all of Forest Park. However, with all of the development over the ensuing years it appears that view has been blocked off. And here is The Overlook as it appears today -- the right hand side of the building has been added.
The next two are a little trickier. According to Mr. Smith, the one below shows the road leading to the Ridgewood Reservoir. We've never been there -- we looked through old photos and couldn't find that tower. Anyone have any thoughts on this?
The next panel depicts a very old scene -- Park Lane South and Myrtle Avenue -- perhaps the Buddy Memorial in Richmond Hill?
Now, at first glance the soldier does not appear to be the same -- but the base and the flagpole are identical --so we went to the Buddy Memorial and tried to replicate the angle. Hmmm -- looks pretty close. Needs further research. Love to see some old photos of the area for comparison. The Old Doughboy statues around Queens were erected in the 1920's, memorializing those lost in WW1.
The next panel shows a very colorful Oak Ridge -- which was the golf clubhouse dating back to the turn of the century.
This was based on the following photograph -- down to two of the men (one near the house and the other next to the tree with the grass cutter.) Once again, people out enjoying themselves, having a moment in time memorialized on film and eventually placed on our Carousel.
And here is Oak Ridge as it looked today - February 21, 2012. Beautiful. You can rent out Oak Ridge for parties or receptions. Halfway up the hill there are two trees, both in the old photo and the picture taken today. Could they be the same trees? It's very possible.
And that concludes a nice whirl around our Carousel -- and around Queens! Some real nice artwork that pays tribute to the history of Forest Park and the communities that surround it.
If you have any comments, or would like to suggest other projects, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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Photos by Joey Wendell