Carousel to Take a Spin to Bay Area

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The historic, hand-carved carousel at Shoreline Village in Long Beach has been sold to the city of San Francisco, officials said.

The 88-year-old merry-go-round built by renowned craftsman Charles Looff will remain at the waterfront shopping and dining complex in Long Beach for about two more months, said Marianne Stevens, who owns the carousel.

Stevens, a collector who lives in Roswell, N.M., had leased the carousel for 10 years to Shoreline Village, where the ride's multicolored horses, camels, giraffes, rams and chariots have been key attractions. The lease recently expired.

Helen Sause, project director for the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, said the carousel will be the centerpiece of a proposed multimillion-dollar children's center, which includes gardens and an ice-skating rink, near the George Moscone Convention Center downtown.

The city paid $1 million for the carousel, Sause said, adding that independent estimates had placed the value much higher.

Historically, the merry-go-round has special ties to both San Francisco and Long Beach.

Looff, who finished building the carousel in 1906, lived for many years in Long Beach and worked on his trademark amusement rides. The merry-go-round was in Seattle briefly before spending about 60 years at the now-closed Playland amusement park in San Francisco. Stevens bought the carousel when the park closed in the early 1970s.

"It has such sentimental roots in San Francisco, we're thrilled it's coming back," Sause said.

Stevens said she has offered to lease another historic carousel to Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., the owners of Shoreline Village. That carousel, built by Charles Carmel, is nearing the end of a two-year restoration, Stevens said. Officials representing Northwestern declined to comment about a possible replacement.

Stevens, author of a book on merry-go-rounds titled "Painted Ponies," said that only 153 antique carousels are left in the United States. Many others have been broken up and the pieces sold to collectors. Of the 17 built by Looff, only 10 remain intact.

A Looff carousel at Long Beach's old Pike amusement park was destroyed in a fire in 1943.

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