Goats are among the variety of rides on the Kit Carson County Carousel on the fairgrounds at Burlington, Colo. Photo by Jennifer Bartram
A trio of giraffes adds to the whimsy of the old fashioned carousel. Photo by Jennifer Bartram
Of the nearly 4,000 wooden carousels carved in America between 1885-1930, fewer than 150 are still in existence. One of the finest of these survivors, however, can be found on the county fairgrounds at Burlington, Colo, about 7 hours northeast of Los Alamos by car.
The sixth of 74 carousels manufactured by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) between 1904 and 1933, the Kit Carson County Carousel in a three-row, stationary (the animals do not move up and down) machine housed in a 12 sided frame building. It is the only antique carousel in America still having original paint on both the scenery panels and on the animals, and PTC6 is the only surviving menagerie (having other animals in addition to horses) carousel made by PTC. And it is fully operational!
Forty-six hand-carved animals march counter-clockwise on this carousel, mounted on a 45-foot diameter platform. The 16 outside row animals are the largest. Intricate carvings range from Cupids to a wooden medallion with a sculpture of an Arab sheik. One giraffe has a snake twined around its neck, and behind the saddle of a zebra is a gnome, sitting in a shell and aiming a spear at the rider’s seat! The texture of each animal’s coat is faithfully detailed, and teeth, slathering tongues and hooves are carefully included.
There are real antlers on the deer and real horse tails on many of the horses. All of the glass eyes are of a color and expression suitable to the temperament of their animals.
Four chariots, two red with elaborately carved sides and two blue simply painted to appear cared, are available to ride. Each chariot has two seats and can accommodate six riders. The back of each seat has a painted landscape.
Drive machinery and the center of the carousel are enclosed by 45 oil paintings mounted in tiers of three. The paintings, representing subject matter from full-length portraits to landscapes, and created with varying degrees of skill in styles varying from post-impressionist to realist, depict lifestyles and interest of the Victorian middle class.
Because PTC6 was stationary and didn’t have the “excitement” if a jumper carousel…where the animals went up and down as well as around…the manufacturers made it one of the country’s fastest merry-go-rounds. It twirls at a breath-taking 12 mph compared with the average carousel speed of 8mph.
This carousel was built in 1905 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Co. for Elitch Gardens amusement park in Denver.
It was run by Elitchs each summer until 1927 when it was replaced by P.T.C.#51 which is still in use there. Machine #6 was installed at the Kit Carson County Fairgrounds in 1928. The county commissioners responsible for its purchase were C.J. Buchanan, G.W. Huntley and I.D. Messenger. Pressured by voters who considered the $1,250. an extravagant expenditure for hard times, Huntly and Buchanan chose not to run in the 1928 election.
The carousel was neglected between 1931 and 1937 when the Great Depression closed the fair. During that period, corn stalks and hay were stored in the building, attracting rodents that damaged the carousel and band organ.
Restoration was begun as a Bi-Centennial project in 1976 when Art Reblitz of Colorado Springs restored the 1909 Wurlitzer Monster Military Band Organ. Denver area residents John Pogzeba and Will Morton restored the 45 oil paintings in 1979-80. In 1987 the original paint carousel was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Department of the Interior, National Park Service.
The carousel is operated daily during June, July and August. Private tours can be arranged year round by written request two weeks in advance. It is only 25 cents to ride the carousel and $1 to tour the many displays in the museum.
For more information, visit www.kitcarsoncountycarousel.com.
Source: Kit Carson County Carousel Association
Photo by Jennifer Bartram
Ornate panels cover the drive machinery on the carousel. Photo by Jennifer Bartram
A Gnome is tucked in behind the saddle of the zebra ride on the carousel. Photo by Jennifer Bartram
Inside the museum an exhibit details how to build a donkey ride. Photo by Jennifer Bartram
Monster Military Band Organ with 255 pipes bass snare drums and cymbal. Photo by Jennifer Bartram