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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Stewart Park Herschell Carousel, Ithaca, NY

Located on the southern tip of Cuyuga Lake, the largest of New York's large Finger Lakes, Stewart Park is located in a tranquil place. It is just outside of the primary development of Ithaca, NY, away from the Commons, Cornell University, and Ithaca College. The primary development of Ithaca was actually away from the waterfront for the reason of better availability of fast flowing creeks for the creation of mills and more. Ithaca is Gorges, very much like the slogan suggests. There are countless giant waterfalls that are a spectacular sight to see. Because of the power that could be utilized from these waterfalls and creeks, in addition to the risk of flooding near the waterfront, the primary development of the city is a little bit inland. This land was also owned as an estate. Since the location of Stewart Park is in a relatively remote location, it was purchased by the local trolley company for a turn-of-the-century trolley park in 1894, not too different from the many others in this time period. It was called Renwick Park and included in the park were Vaudeville acts,  a zoo, and a carousel. It closed in 1915, several years after the trolley line was out of operation.
The park's tranquil location at the end of Cuyuga Lake




A little known fact about Ithaca is that it served as a Hollywood-like center for the short-lived Silent Film Era. The Whartons, the primary silent film studio, utilized the park as a production place. The beautiful views from this spot and around the city were perfect for the time before the talkies were produced. In 1920 Santa Cruz, CA was able to woo the Whartons to move away from Ithaca, leaving this land abandoned. Below you can see the century old studio building on the left and the concession stand on the right.
At this point, the public park movement was in place. The entire area around Cuyuga Lake, as much of it is now, was completely privately owned. One of the city's most forward looking mayors, Edwin Stewart, saw the value in having a centrally located section of waterfront open for the people. He established a community park and to this day it is a popular place with a large playground, picnic grounds, barbecue pits, swings along the lakefront, plentiful wildlife, and a wide range of recreational activities. Of the most interest to us is that they opted to add back a carousel.

They purchased a new carousel from the relatively local company out of the Buffalo area, Herschell.
According to the National Carousel Association, the carousel was added to the park in 1951. It has the wonderful art deco style of the Herschell machines of that era, including the signature vertical fluorescent lights with curved metal serving as a halo/backsplash to the lights, for lack of better words to explain it.
There are three rows of metal jumping horses. This machine is really beautiful and well taken care of.

 Throughout the ride you get a relaxing view of the playgrounds, trees, and the lake.


If you are in Ithaca, be sure to shell out 75 cents to go ride this community treasure. More community parks should have carousels like this. Carousels help bring the community together and provide a relaxing setting for a wonderful afternoon away from it all.


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