Port Dalhousie Carousel – Description and History

Port Dalhousie CarouselOn the beach at Lakeside Park, Port Dalhousie, St. Catharines, you can still ride the carousel for a nickel. This antique carousel is one of the largest and best remaining examples of a Looff menagerie carousel. Four rows deep with 69 carousel animals including jumpers, standers and a gigantic lion, goats (prancers), giraffes, and camels.

According to the National Carousel Association (US), this carousel was built in 1903 by the Charles I.D. Looff Company, of Riverside, Rhode Island. Each animal was hand carved in the Coney Island style. Stately jeweled standers guard the outside ring, as jumpers on the three inside rows gallop into the wind.

Lakeside Park in which the carousel is located, was originally operated jointly by the Canada Railway News and the Niagara, St. Catharines and Toronto Railway. It was part of an amusement park, of which the Carousel is the only remaining ride.

In 1921 the N.S.&T. Railway purchased the carousel from Toronto, probably from Hanlan’s Point.

From the City of Toronto Archives Image Database you can see a photograph of Hanlan’s Point in 1911 by William James. On the left side of the pictures you can see the merry-go-round building. Photograph Fonds 1244 Item 122A

Another possibility is that the Port Dalhousie carousel came from the Scarborough Beach Amusement Park. But the Scarborough Beach carousel was not put up for sale until September 1925. From the City of Toronto Archives Image Database, you can see pictures of Scarborough Beach Carousel beside the Water Chute.

From 1950 to 1970 the carousel was privately owned by Mr. Sid Brookson. In 1970 Mr. Brookson put the carousel up for sale asking $25,000.

Rather than let the carousel leave Port Dalhousie, Mrs. Dorothy Crabtree a local antique dealer led a campaign to raise enough money to purchase the carousel. The students of Brock University, Niagara College and the local high schools were all involved in canvassing for the carousel. A walkathon raised $8,000, but by the deadline Mrs. Crabtree had only $20,000. Mr. Brookson, the carousel lover that he was, lowered the price and Mrs. Dorothy Crabtree had a carousel.

Turning over the ownership to the City Council on July 17, 1970. Mrs. Crabtree suggested that the price of the ride remain at 5 cents and the City of St. Catharines agreed to take over operation and maintenance.

In 1973 the carousel was threatened by flood and was dismantled and stored. While in storage fire damaged 23 animals May 12, 1974. Local high school art students were involved in the restoration of the charred and paint blistered animals. In 1978 the threat of high water agian forced the removal of the animals and they were stored at various locations in town.

A new building was constructed further up the beach and the carousel reopened in June 20th, 1981.

In 1983 City By-Law #83-127 gave the carousel historic designation under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Currently, some repairs need to be made and the animals need to be repainted. Niagara Woodcarvers have agreed to help the Friends of the Carousel with the repairs.