Gradually hypnotized by festive tones pumping from the organ, I can taste butter and salt on my lips. The air is riddled with giggles and laughs as my kids yell ‘please daddy just one more ride!’ and the cares of the world are forgotten if only for a moment as this magnificent herd delightfully transports its riders spiraling over hills and through valleys on a journey from anxious anticipation to happy returns. Carousels epitomize a simple pleasure that has endured generations.
The Carousel at Joyland in Wichita, Kansas enchanted riders for 59 years from its opening in 1949 until it closed its doors in 2004. Over that span, it was the centerpiece of Joyland – the premier venue for family entertainment in the area. Known as the ‘Merry Go Round’, the carousel was designed and manufactured by the Allan Herschell Company, the most prolific maker of carousels in the world from 1915 – 1970. At the end of every season the carousel was disassembled to protect it from harsh winter weather. Thanks to this foresight, we still have every one of the spirited horses original to the carousel. It is without a doubt a treasured piece of Americana and amusement ride history.
In 2014, Joyland owner Margaret Nelson Spear donated the nostalgic gem to Botanica. Building on unprecedented success, Botanica has surged to the forefront in the Wichita community not only for its variety of flora and wonderful gardens, but also for family adventures, activities, education and events of all kinds. Botanica is unquestionably the ideal location to revive the beloved carousel for the continued enjoyment of everyone for years to come. Each of the original horses is receiving a meticulous restoration from Marlene Irvin, owner of Custom Carving and Restoration, who will return them to their classic glory.
“My desire for the Carousel is that it be restored and function for the enjoyment of my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and children of all ages in the Wichita community as a reminder of the amusement park thrills that once were.” – Margaret Nelson Spear
The Carousel will be featured in a new permanent pavilion to protect it from all weather and provide four season comfort to guests. A new custom organ will be built by Gordon Ramsay that will be uniquely designed for the space. Many of the original music reels from the Joyland organ will still be used to further enrich the nostalgic aura as a multi-sensory experience.
WDM Architects has had the extreme pleasure of working with this entire team of collaborators as the vision for the carousel’s future has been advanced. The project is unique with its wide appeal and brings together a diverse group of enthusiasts. Each element of this is very important to us.
- We believe in helping to create stronger communities. We have worked on many projects that serve the greater good by providing entertainment, education, safety and services to the public. The Carousel project will be uniquely positioned as a source of fun for the entire cross-section of the community.
- We believe in encouraging people to enjoy the outdoors. Our landscape architects and zoo design team work passionately to create outdoor environments that immerse guests in the wonderful and varied flora [and fauna] of the natural world. Botanica shares this mission surrounding guests with a variety of formal gardens and natural areas. The carousel will attract more guests and highlight what is already special about Botanica.
- We believe it is important to recognize and preserve history. As architects, we specialize in historic renovation to preserve a rich and beautiful fabric in the built environment. We have found designing for the preservation of the carousel to be just as interesting, rewarding and essential. It will be an iconic link from a previous era to the present.
As the day winds down, I can feel refreshing shade cast by mature hedge stretching long in the afternoon as the reliable Kansas wind rustles through the cottonwoods and creates a soothing background soundtrack. Crowning a perfect expedition of garden walks and endless fun in the Children’s Garden, I am enticed forward by stunningly colorful and ornate blooming specimens that lie before me. Their fresh floral aroma grows with intensity. The atmosphere is soon engulfed with familiar organ melodies, shrieks of joy and the pitter-patter of little feet racing ahead of me to the Carousel, which in all good nature challenges its floral counterparts with its equally colorful and ornate steeds.
We’re looking forward to a new season of joy landing at Botanica in 2018!
Scott Ramser, AIA