The Odyssey of the Historic Jantzen Beach Carousel: From Leavenworth, Kansas, to Portland, Oregon, 1921–2022

Identified as Superior Park Model #2 in company records, the carousel is shown assembled outside of the C. W. Parker factory in Leavenworth, Kansas, 1921. Barbara Fahs Charles Collection, C. W. Parker Archives.

November 18, 2022 – April 30, 2023

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The Jantzen Beach Amusement Park officially opened on May 26, 1928. In July of that year, it added a new attraction—an impressive four-abreast carousel built by C. W. Parker. Originally designed for the J. A. Ellis Amusement Company for installation on the pier in Venice, California, the Jantzen Beach Carousel measured more than 66 feet in diameter and stood nearly three stories high. Featuring 72 beautifully hand-carved horses, it is the last Parker Superior Park Model carousel known to exist.

The Odyssey of the Historic Jantzen Beach Carousel examines the carousel’s journey from Parker’s Leavenworth factory to California’s sunny shores to the Jantzen Beach Amusement Park, “Portland’s Million-Dollar Playground” on Hayden Island in the Columbia River. When the amusement park was demolished in 1970 to make way for a shopping center, the carousel became the centerpiece of the mall, drawing delighted children and adults for the next 40 years.

As the character of the shopping center changed to make room for more “big box” stores, the pavilion that sheltered the carousel was torn down and its fate seemed uncertain. While it might have been sold off piecemeal, fortune shined on the carousel’s future and its second century of giving joy to future generations of riders. The owners of the Jantzen Beach Center donated the carousel to Restore Oregon, a statewide, nonprofit historic preservation organization, where it has been carefully stored since 2017. This exhibition includes four of the carousel’s beautiful horses, two of them fully restored and on display for the first time in over a decade, as well as historical photographs, objects, videos, and a gallery of stunning hand-printed silver gelatin photographs by architect and heritage documentarian, Harley Cowan.

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