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Looking Back: Carousel Horses at Jefferson Beach Amusement Park, St. Clair Shores

St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published August 25, 2017

It is thought that the idea of the carousel grew out of the sports in which knights in the Middle Ages participated. With the invention of mechanical power, a moving carousel was possible; the first steam-powered “mechanical roundabout” debuted at a fair in England in 1861.

In 1860, Gustav Dentzel emigrated from Germany to Pennsylvania. He had trained as a cabinet maker, but soon grew tired of his trade. He created a portable carousel and found much success traveling with his invention. He established a carousel business in Philadelphia in 1867, which his son William took over after Gustav’s death. The carousel style the family created is seen across the U.S. and has remained remarkably consistent over the years.

The Jefferson Beach carousel was in the Dentzel or Philadelphia style, with more naturalistic depictions of the horses that were carved from wood. The carousel was installed in 1928. The ceiling had a floral design with gilded angels and mirrors in the center. This was the second carousel at the park, with the first having been sold after a year.

Jefferson Beach Amusement Park opened in 1927 and operated until 1959, despite a mysterious fire that swept through the park in 1955. There is no record of what happened to the carousel after the park closed.

— Submitted by Heidi Christein, archivist, St. Clair Shores Public Library