Jantzen Beach Carousel, in storage somewhere near Portland

Jantzen Beach Carousel

Jantzen Beach Carousel

Year Built: 1904
Location: Portland, Oregon

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.

Threats

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.

Progress

Restore Oregon listed the carousel as one of its Most Endangered Places in 2012. Given the Carousel’s unique design, high-level of historic significance, and cultural value to generations, the carousel found its way to Restore Oregon’s Most Endangered Places list when it was dismantled, stored, and no longer in operation. After five years of diligent work, Restore Oregon has saved it and now we need your help to find it a new permanent home so it can “turn” once again as a year-round family attraction.

This project was funded in part by the Oregon Cultural Trust and Kinsman foundation

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Statewide Partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation