Cherished Carousel Begins a 2nd Century
Spokane’s beautifully preserved Looff Carousel begins a second century of delighting children and adults. Built in 1909 and considered to be the last operating carousel created by Charles Looff the hand-carved wooden carousel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This Spokane treasure is frequently listed as one of the top five carousels in the country and has one of the highest number of riders each year.
Aligned three abreast, 54 horses prance around the wooden platform. All are jumpers, carved in a running position, and move up and down with the rotation of the carousel. This is the only one made by Looff on which all of the horses are jumpers. A giraffe, one tiger and two dragon chariots complete the carousel.
Spokane’s Looff debuted July 1909 in Natatorium Park, operating there until 1967 when the park closed. It was brought out of storage after Spokane’s Expo ‘74 and reassembled in the world’s fair Bavarian Garden building.
We don’t consider a trip to Spokane complete without a few turns on the historic carousel in Riverfront Park. On sunny summer days, during chilly spring rains or snowy Christmas holidays there’s something magically and rejuvenating about climbing atop a bejeweled jumper, the ringing of the starting bell and music from the band organ. We gallop along at a brisk 7-mph pace with the outside riders stretching out with each rotation in hopes of grabbing the golden ring. Those who succeed receive a free ride. Awaiting our turn we careful scrutinize the passing array of horses. Do we want to mount a red sorrel, dapple gray or strawberry pinto? Each horse is individually painted and adorned in colorful “trappings”, tails are made from real horse hair and color coordinated.
More than a quarter of a million riders experience the Spokane Looff carousel each year. My first ride on this treasure was in 1983; I hope to never loss my enthusiasm for a spin.
In celebration of the Looff carousel anniversary an exhibition of artifacts and artwork is showcased at the Chase Gallery in Spokane’s City Hall. The Art of the Carousel, on display until February 28, 2010, features antique horses and figures, horses under construction, original artworks and historical details. Chase Gallery is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 5 pm.