Restore Oregon’ Most Endangered Place: The Jantzen Beach Carousel
History on the C.W. Parker Carousel (aka the Jantzen Beach Carousel)
The Jantzen Beach Carousel, a national treasure, was built by C.W. Parker, renowned carver and aptly named “amusement king,” in 1904 in Abilene, Kansas, for the St. Louis World’s Fair. It then moved to Venice, California, for an intermediary period, before arriving at its longtime home at Jantzen Beach Amusement Park in 1928. Jantzen Beach, named after the Portland-founded Jantzen swimwear brand, was the site of the first Olympic-size pool in the Pacific Northwest, which later expanded to the amusement park complex of which the carousel became a part.
According to a September 2007 plaque from the National Carousel Association, the “antique wooden carousel brings magic to children of all ages and is the last operating 4-row, 72 horse Parker Superior Park Machine.”
From 1928 to the 1960s, the amusement park was frequented by up to 725,000 people annually. By 1970, however, attendance had dipped to the point that the park was closed and soon demolished. Countless Portland- and Vancouver-area residents recall memories made at Jantzen Beach Amusement Park fondly.
By 1971, construction on a 500,000-square-foot shopping mall, the Jantzen Beach Center, began in the place of the amusement park. The mall, however, maintained a connection to the history of the site by preserving the original Jantzen Beach Carousel and providing it a permanent placement within the shopping center. In 1987 the Jantzen Beach Carousel was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, along with four other similarly remarkable wooden carousels in the state. (It was delisted in 2008 when plans to move it to the Portland Children’s Museum did not go through.)
In 1995, the carousel was threatened by a redevelopment effort of the mall, but the community and staff of Jantzen Beach advocated on behalf of the carousel’s historical significance and successfully deterred its demise. The carousel was then entirely disassembled and renovated at a cost of $500,000 before its grand opening and re-dedication in its new location in the mall’s food court. This is where it stayed, beloved by many, until April 22, 2012, when the carousel was closed to the public in anticipation of a $50 million remodel of the Jantzen Beach Center by EDENS, Inc., a South Carolina-based developer and real estate holding company. The mall has since been sold to Kimco Realty Corporation, joining the New York real estate investment firm’s eight other mall-style properties in the Portland metro area.
In 2012, it was included in Restore Oregon’s Most Endangered Places list, joining the of scores of historic properties nominated by people across the state that are in imminent danger of being lost due to hard times, development pressures, demolition or neglect.
Why It’s Endangered
On April 22, 2012, the Carousel was closed to the public in anticipation of a $50 million remodel of the Jantzen Beach Center by EDENS, a South Carolina-based developer and real estate holding company.
Given the Carousel’s unique design and high-level of significance to generations of Portlanders, its continued operation is critical to passing forward the last remnant of the property’s former life as an amusement park and to creating a unique for Oregonians and Washingtonians alike.
The C. W. Parker Four-Row Park Carousel is built in Abilene, Kansas, by C.W. (Charles Wallace) Parker, the “American Amusement King,” for the St. Louis World’s Fair. According to the Leavenworth Historical Museums Association, “Parker built five large, extravagant ‘park’ machines, designed to be permanently installed in large amusement parks. Only one of those five is still in existence: the Jantzen Beach Carousel, Portland, Oregon.”
1921 Moved and installed in Venice Beach, California.
1928 Sold to Hayden Island, Inc. for $28,000 and moved to the Jantzen Beach Amusement Park on Hayden Island, which operates for 41 years.
1970 Due to low attendance, the Jantzen Beach Amusement Park closes.
1971 Construction of the new, 500,000-square-foot Jantzen Beach Center begins.
1972 As an homage to the site’s history, the carousel is refurbished and installed in the new Jantzen Beach Center.
1976 Entered in the “The Guinness Book of Records” for the longest carousel ride of 311 hours and 17 minutes.
1987 At 83 years old, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
1995 Threatened by mall redevelopment, but eventually saved by advocates in the community, the carousel is entirely disassembled and renovated at a cost of $500,000.
1996 “Carousel Day” on the grand opening of the Jantzen Beach Super Center unveils the carousel’s new home in the mall’s food court.
2012 Closed to the public in anticipation of a $50 million remodel of the Jantzen Beach Center. Last ride is at 6 p.m. on April 22, 2012.
2012 Included in Restore Oregon’s Most Endangered Places list, sparking the organization’s involvement in the project.
July: Jantzen Beach Center real estate property is sold to Kimco Realty Corporation.
September: The Jantzen Beach Carousel is donated by EDENS, Inc. to Restore Oregon for a chance to find a new home and owner/operator that will return this beloved family attraction to the greater Portland community.
and the entire field of historic preservation
have been evolving in recent years. What
originated as an effort to stop demolition of
colonial landmarks has expanded into a
movement focused on livability, sustainability,
adaptive reuse, place-making, job creation,
and Main Street revitalization! Learn more...