Botanica’s Carousel Gardens: A New Home for Old Memories

November 15, 2016 • Dan Wilson, AIA

Botanicas Carousel Gardens A New Home for Old Memories WDM Architects Historic Renovations Article-1

Festive tones pumping from the organ mingle with my kids’ giggles as they yell ‘please daddy just one more ride!’ The cares of the world are forgotten if only for a moment and young faces light up with joy as they ride the beautiful merry-go-round. I smile, too. Watching them brings back many happy memories from my own childhood. Truly, 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. The gardens have surged to the forefront of the Wichita community not only for its variety of flora and wonderful gardens, but also for family outings, educational opportunities and special events. Botanica is certainly the ideal location to revive the beloved carousel for the enjoyment of everyone for years to come.

Each of the original horses has received a meticulous restoration from Marlene Irvin, owner of Custom Carving and Restoration, to return them to their classic glory. A custom organ designed for the carousel by Gordon Ramsay will play many of the original music reels from Joyland to further the nostalgic aura.


“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 is now installed in a new permanent pavilion designed by WDM to protect it from Kansas weather and provide four-season comfort to guests. WDM Architects has had the extreme pleasure of collaborating with this team to advance the vision for the carousel. The project is unique with its wide appeal and brings together a diverse group of enthusiasts.

We have especially enjoyed this work because:

  • We believe in helping to create stronger communities. Our portfolio is full of projects that serve the greater good by providing entertainment, education, safety and public services. The Carousel will also be a source of fun for our entire 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 protect the rich and beautiful fabric of the built environment. Designing a new home for the newly refurbished antique carousel has been just as interesting, rewarding and essential. It will be an iconic link from a previous era to the present.

We’re looking forward to a new season of joy at Botanica with the long-awaited opening of the Carousel Gardens! Bring your kids, and your memories.