A historical Carousel and a day in THE Park

I have eagerly looked for an opportunity to introduce our granddaughters to the Griffith Park Carousel since last summer when we discovered our favorite Balboa Island children’s thrill ride was no longer operating.

Griffith Park Carousel

Griffith Park is a Los Angeles treasure. The second-largest city park in California and the tenth largest municipally owned in the United States, it encompasses 4,310 acres of truly beautiful hiking trails and unexpected open land. I previously shared about THE Park when we  spent the day at Fern Dell and the Griffith Observatory. 

Griffith Park

Once again, I can at least drop in a mention of my favorite “rancho talk,” since the park is named after Griffith J. Griffith, a wealthy mining investor who purchased Rancho Los Feliz in 1882, later donating 3,015 acres to the city of Los Angeles.

Griffith has an interesting history, and the park is full of beautiful scenery, museums, picnic areas, wildlife and horseback riding…but for this chapter, I want to treat you to the sight and sounds of a classic wood carousel.

Griffith Park Carousel Horses

The Carousel was built in 1926 by the Spillman Engineering Company, and after first spending some time in San Diego it was brought to Griffith Park in 1937.

Griffith Park Carousel

The Griffith Carousel has four rows with 68 jumping horses, carved and jeweled with realistic tails.

Carousel Horses Tails

It is believed that Walt Disney, who frequently brought his children to Griffith Park, modeled the Disneyland Carousel after this beautiful original.

Griffith Park Carousel Horses

The ceiling panels are also distinctive. Most carousel ceilings are open, revealing the mechanics, but this one boasts an ornately painted interior.

Griffith Park Carousel Ceiling Panels

Two little girls loved the horses and the experience of a carousel that circles at a very fast clip!

Griffith Park Carousel Horses

But for me,  the best feature of the carousel is a Stinson 165 Military Band Organ, giving the entire experience a very old-fashioned sound experience.

Stinson Military Organ

This organ is reputed to be the largest carousel band organ on the west coast. Playing more than 1500 tunes, many of them patriotic, I heard some personal favorites. I also wondered how many of the young parents knew they were whirling to Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean and the Beer Barrel Polka.

Of course, all of this is very interesting to me, but the best part of the day was watching two little girls having a very good time!



Isn’t it fun when childhood memories are enhanced with such a simple pleasure? And the extra good news? The Carousel ride is a bargain at $2.00. At that rate one can afford to get really dizzy!

Click HERE to enjoy the wonderfully nostalgic sounds of the Stinson Organ. See if it doesn’t take you back to your own childhood!

I’ll be sharing other Griffith Park experiences quite frequently, I’m sure. 4,310 acres may take me a little while, but I’ll get there!

43 thoughts on “A historical Carousel and a day in THE Park

  1. How wonderful that historic pieces are kept in operation… and the girls do look like they’re having fun… 1926 – 5c now $2 seems a bargain alright… the carousel looks absolutely magnificent, and I do love the ceiling … what a find of a historical kind..

    1. The carousel is really very special to me, Rob. I find it remarkable that the city maintains it! So often anything with the slightest need for preservation funds becomes a battleground, but to my knowledge, this is one of those little landmarks that seems destined to remain! We had such a lovely day. Thank you for enjoying it with me! 🙂

  2. Aaaaw, my eyes got misty in seeing the JOY in your granddaughter’s pretty faces. The child in me would love to get on a carousel. 🙂 Enjoyed the photos and information.

    1. Thank you so much, Marie, for sensing how special it is for me to enjoy a day at the park with my granddaughters. They are growing up so quickly, and I want to have as many special times with them as I can, enjoying the simplest of activities! 🙂

  3. I love a carousel; it just brings back the magic of reading Mary Poppins. How lovely that something so old has been so well looked after and is there for everyone of today to enjoy. I would have been up there and on it like your granddaughters xx

    1. I’m so glad you referenced Mary Poppins, Charlie. I hadn’t made the association, but now that you’ve brought it up I see it, too. This old carousel is very much like the one in the movie–except the horses are attached. LOL! It was such a fun time with the girls. Their grandfather was getting dizzy, but they weren’t! 🙂

    1. The zoo and Autry Museum and Observatory are all part of the park. Then add in the stables and the hills themselves, as well as the golf courses! It is a lot larger than most of us ever experience, that’s for sure! I hope you’ll make it to the Carousel. It’s so charming! 🙂

  4. Griffith Park is such a gem! It’s wonderful to see examples of beautiful parkland in and around our major cities. That carousel is such a beautiful and wondrous machine. The looks on your Granddaughters’ faces say it all. Isn’t it great witnessing children doing something that you know they’ll never forget?

    1. I have visited Griffith Park my whole life, John, and there are still so many trails and parts of it I’ve never visited. I think we’re feeling very nostalgic these days, and now want Sophia and Karina to have the same appreciation for this lovely park. The carousel was a big hit, as you could tell. It was fun to see so many young families with their children. I am always so pleased to see people appreciating such simple pleasures. 🙂

    1. I’m so glad you liked the look of the old carousel, Andra. The horses are really beautiful–old and worn beautiful, but I really like them. I think we’ll be going more often now that the girls have been introduced! 🙂

    1. I do hope that by taking the girls to enjoy many simple pleasures perhaps they won’t grow up and be sophisticated too quickly! LOL! The carousel is really a treasure. I probably use that word too frequently–treasure–but we all certainly know that all too often anything with age that may require maintenance is easily replaced. For once, “they” got it right and the carousel is well preserved!

  5. What fun! The carousel is my favourite ride. i never was a thrill seeker! The photographs of your granddaughters are so delightful! You are so fortunate to be able to have these treasured moments. ~Thea

    1. I am not a thrill seeker either, Thea. The carousel is just about my speed. My role at most theme parks is to watch everyone else go on roller coasters–and I hold the coats and purses! LOL! I do believe that each of these little times with my granddaughters is very special. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for the link to the Merry-Go-Round in Canberra! We sometimes call them Merry-Go-Rounds, too. I don’t know why the labeling isn’t consistent. That’s another good question for me to read about sometime. LOL! I loved the fact that the horses were all named on the site. I’ve never seen that before. The restoration of these beautiful works of art seems to much a labor of love for those involved, and aren’t we grateful for their contribution! Thank you so much for sharing with me. And yes, of course you took your grandson! It’s our duty as grandmothers! 🙂

  6. Now, that’s my kind of ride, Debra. I was on an old carousel a few years ago on a ladies’ day trip to an estate on the North Shore. A house full of every kind of musical box imaginable – and a carousel. We all rode and took on the persona of young girls (until we got off and were all dizzy, tee hee ). What a delightful time to spend with Sophia and Karina, who will remember their special times with you, for sure.

    You really bring your beloved southern CA alive, Debra, and, in so doing, make me all-the-more eager to seek out such attractions here. I can’t thank you enough for these posts and their breathing lessons.

    1. You know Penny…I thought I’d better ride the old carousel with the girls while I can still get up and down off of those horses! LOL! I’m sure there must be other beautiful old carousels somewhere in the Chicago area, don’t you think? There was a carousel from my childhood at the beach and we visited it at least every summer. I have some sweet photos of the girls when they were just babies. But they recently dismantled it and I was so sad about that! So now we will redirect to Griffith Park and I hope to instill enough love and appreciation for it that they won’t lose interest anytime too soon. Maybe as teens they won’t care…but that love will come back when they’re grown, I’m sure! 🙂

  7. What a wonderful carousel. Those old classic wood carousel are indeed something very special; and don’t we all have childhood memories of riding them? A heart-warming post with lovely photographs.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts on our day at the Griffith Park Carousel, Otto. It was so much fun and I am eager to visit again and again with the girls. The music from that old organ has stayed with me all week! The horses were in remarkably good condition for their age. I’m so interested in being sure the girls have as many of these simple pleasures as we can offer. They are growing up entirely too quickly! 🙂

  8. Thanks for the experience! That organ is a marvel, and the expressions on those two sweet young faces say so much about the experience! Funny the way we here have never called them ‘carousels’ but always ‘merry-go-rounds’.

    1. We call them merry-go-rounds too, Col. I don’t know the reason for the different labelings, and that might be interesting to research some time. The organ music was just a delight to me. It was very reminiscent of sounds I recall from childhood. It’s rare these days to find something simple, inexpensive and fun for young and old! I was surprised after I posted to have several friends say they’d forgotten about this old Carousel…so I’m glad I posted about our fun day! Thanks so much for sharing it with me.

      1. You prompted me to do a little searching on roundabouts, carousels, merry-go-rounds and also traffic circles. It is all very confusing. Apparently they go counter-closckwise in USA, although some sources deny this? Of course, the traffic ones do, or there would be some awful crunching sounds.

  9. Last time I went on one of these with my son I was the one who felt ill! Light aircraft in thunderstorm – no problem; Merry go round – multi-colored yawn time 😉 Nice shots – the kids look like they were having fun 🙂

  10. Lovely girls, your granddaughters. What a wonderful park to visit with them. You sure showed them how to have a good time. I bet they’re going to remember this day!

  11. The girls a so happy on the carouse I’m sure they’ll always remember these outings with you. 😀
    I’ve been to Griffith Park umpteen times but have never seen the carousel – I’m still waiting for the grandchildren – so thank you for taking us there and explaining its history. My goodness its beautiful.

    1. Do you know that I frequently speak with other SoCal natives who hardly know a thing about Griffith Park except for the zoo? I then have to quash the look of horror and irritation that I know comes over my face! 🙂

  12. Just to add a little bit about the band organ :
    The band organ is made by the Stinson band organ company of Ohio, it is a model 87 which plays Wurlitzer 165 rolls. This carousel originally had a Wurlitzer style 165 on the ride, but was kept by the original owner when the ride sold in the mid 80’s. The organ you hear now was then purchased, and still plays great today. It is actually a new band organ, the company still being in business today (Although the owner is looking to retire, but is backed up in work). The 165 rolls have 10 songs per roll, this organ having the duplex system (Like the original Wurlitzer 165) giving the band organ the capability of playing one roll while the other rewinds.
    There is also a North Tonawanda model 187 band organ in the center of the carousel, but that hasn’t played for over 20 years, and unlike the Stinson, is an antique.

  13. Barb Clark

    Thank you for the photos and history. This is the carousel of my youth. It was because of this one that I have had a life long love of carousels. I am researching them for a quilt I am going to make. I may do it on this one only. This was always The Merry Go Round. I love that reference.

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