Hours of Operation
March 1, 2016 - October 31, 2016
Monday - Friday by reservation only; 10am-4pm, last scheduled tour/party at 3pm minimum of $40.00 to reserve carousel.
Open to the public weekends ($1.00 per rider):
Saturdays - 11am-4pm
Sundays - 1pm-4pm
Children under 12 may ride the hobby horses. Riders
12 and older may stand by the horses or ride on the
History of the Antique Carousel
The horses appear to be designed in the "county fair" style of carousels. Those were a sleek style, with form and function as closely united as the wooden horses and their built-in saddles. The horses seem to fly, with manes and tails carved to give an appearance of speed. Building each horse to conform to the same mad dash pose had a two-fold benefit. The animated sense of speed appealed to the customers' imagination, and the identical leg position satisfied the traveling fair or carnival's need to erect and dismantle rides in a hurry.
The horses were originally thought to have been built by the C. W. Parker Company in Kansas. They do fit the type built during the time frame of 1895 and 1906. A few of the horses also bear the tags of the Armitage-Hershell company of New York. However, with the help of the National Carousel Association, it has been determined that the horses were actually carved by Charles W. Dare, a hobbyhorse manufacturer who started building carousels.
Dare's New York carousel company produced its first portable carousels in America sometime between 1867 and 1875. Around 1890 Dare renamed his operation the Charles W. Dare Company and moved it to Brooklyn, New York. County fair carousels flowered with the nurturing of Hershell and Parker, but Dare was the one who planted the seeds for the style. Although his factory was located near the companies famous for ornate decorations, Dare retained his simple designs. According to the NCA, other carousel companies, including Parker's and Armitage-Hershell, purchased horses from builders as well as manufacturers. What set Dare's horses apart were the simple designs he retained, and the fact that he is the only carousel maker to provide his horses with a running martingale - a leather thong that linked the bridle with the chest strap and prevented horses from throwing their heads back - which was popular circa 1985.
All of the horses in Brenham's Antique Carousel bear the running
martingale, which confirms they were carved by Charles Dare sometime
between 1867 and 1901, when Dare died. The carousel itself was
definitely manufactured by C. W. Parker; during the recent
restoration, Parker's stamp was found near the top of the turning
Image of a brown hobby horse
The City's records indicate that in 1932 the carousel was found in a
field next to a railroad track approximately twenty miles northeast
of Brenham by some very community minded and enthusiastic citizens
from Brenham and Washington County. It was purchased from the owner
of the field and brought to Fireman's Park, restored, and used during
the county fair that year.
Outside of Carousel
A 16-sided building, built by the WPA and thought to be one of the few left in Texas, was constructed to house the horses in 1935.
The Brenham Jaycees were caretakers of the city owned carousel for many years. The operation and maintenance of the carousel under their supervision was very successful. In 1987 the Jaycees undertook a restoration project of more than $10,000.00, all of which was donated by businesses and individuals.The Brenham Jaycees have since disbanded and the City of Brenham turned over the operation of the carousel to the Brenham Noon Lions Club.
In early 1999, the Brenham Noon Lions Club, in conjunction with the City's plans to renovate Fireman's Park, removed much of the dirt under the carousel and installed a brick paved floor which compliments the décor of the park and makes it much easier to maintain the carousel and the building. At the same time, the controls which start and stop the carousel were moved outside the perimeter of the carousel to make operation a much easier task.
In 2005, the City closed the carousel because of damage to the horses and two years later began a restoration project of the carousel as part of improvements to Fireman's Park. Donations from private individuals and funding through the Hotel Occupancy Tax Board and Brenham Community Development Corporation allowed the horses and their home to be totally restored. The carousel was re-opened in May, 2008 and is once again making memories.
Since its purchase in 1932, many dedicated citizens of Brenham and Washington County have been involved in the care, maintenance, and enjoyment of the carousel. It is the pride of the community, since it is a unique carousel, and many who rode it as children have returned with their children and grandchildren to enjoy it again and again.