Hampton’s restored 1920 merry-go-round has drawn thousands of visitors to the downtown Hampton waterfront. One of only 183 antique wooden carousels remaining in the United States, and of 75 built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company of Germantown, PA, the Hampton Carousel is a rare and beautiful example of American folk art. Identified as Number 50 (the number is stamped on its center pole), the carousel was originally installed at the Buckroe Amusement Park, site of today’s Buckroe Beach Park on the Chesapeake Bay.
The carousel was maintained intact and operated each summer from 1920 to 1985,when the amusement park ceased operating. It was dismantled and stored until restoration began in 1988. The Carousel was reassembled in the pavilion at 602 Settlers Landing Road and reopened for visitors on June 20, 1991.
The vintage merry-go-round contains its original forty-two oil paintings, thirty beveled mirrors, a Bruder Band Organ, forty-eight hand-carved wooden horses and two hand-carved wooden chariots. The prancing steeds and stately chariots were painstakingly carved from fine-grained hardwood by master carvers Frank Carretta and Daniel C Muller and were painted by European artisans. Max Soltman is credited with the oil paintings and Gus Weiss with the scenery panels and fixture details. The carousel is a whirling tribute to its creators; its intricately decorated horses are so finely carved that the veins in their necks and legs are visible. They festively rise and fall to the strains of recorded organ music and to the delight of all who take a ride.