The beloved Flying Horses Carousel opens for the 2013 season Easter weekend. This is a big event for the locals, and will most likely be well attended. It has been compared to the opening of the Dairy Queen. I know that I have been looking forward to this since its season ended last Fall. Somehow, I spend more time here than I do at the downstairs bar at Alchemy nowadays. Anyhow, I was curious as to what it takes to get this historic landmark ready for the season.
So, I sat down with Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust (MVPT) Executive Director, Chris Scott, to find out. We met in the Whaling Church, which is always impressive, but even more so now, since Margot Datz had just completed the new mural in the church. After talking about the mural for a bit, we got down to business.
I was amazed to hear how much goes into taking care of the Flying Horses. This was a particularly big year for it. The Flying Horses is the oldest platform carousel in America, and for all you New Yorkers, you’ll be happy to know it started its life in Coney Island. It made its way to Martha’s Vineyard in 1884. Since then, it has been a labor of love to keep it working.
The horses themselves are suspended from steel rods, they never touch the ground. So as you can imagine, there is a lot of stress put on those rods. Surprisingly, those rods were the original from 1876.
However, this past Winter, the rods were replaced since they were starting to pop out which led to the breaking of some of the horses legs. I know it’s heartbreaking to think about. Will you notice? Probably not.
So to keep the look of the carousel as authentic as possible, the MVPT commissioned a blacksmith to hand make the replacement rods. A worthwhile undertaking since they rods will be able to keep those horses moving for generations to come.
Another interesting tidbit. Did you know that the mares and tails are real horse hair? Because of this, repairs are made pretty regularly. The pieces have to be removed at the end of each season, along with all the tack and bridal sturrups, and be put in heated storage to keep them from getting brittle and breaking. All of these are now back on the horses and ready for the season.
The paintings that are on the wall also have to be put back up each season. They are placed in archival boxes for the Winter. They are the original pieces from 1876. Knowing this, I am going to really take a good look at them this year. I am usually so focused on the carousel itself.
Now you know those horses take a lickin, but they always look great for their age. How is this possible? Well, each Fall after it closes, there are a couple of Islanders, John Anderson, and Bob and Peggy Swear, who touch-up the horses. This a laborious paint job, and has to be done before the weather gets too cold. That’s why the Flying Horses closes so early in the season. It has to in-order to be maintained.
It’s not just the horses that get a little love, but also the platform. It sees a lot of use and needs to be painted each and every year.
Last but not least, the Wurlitzer Organ has to be put back piece by piece. The organ has leather bellos that run by the pulleys of the carousel. Pretty cool if you think about it and green no less!
So, when you go to the Flying Horses this year, take a moment to look around. Think about all that the MVPT has to do to keep this piece of Vineyard history up and running. This simple carousel is a true American Classic that has stood the test of time, and will continue to bring joy into the lives of Islanders and visitors of all ages.
One last thing, after learning about all of this, I have an even deeper appreciation for the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, and its efforts in preserving our history for the future.
The Flying Horses Carousel will be open Saturday and Sunday until Memorial Day, then Friday, Saturday and Sundy unitl mid June, when it goes to seven days a week. Also, if you didn’t use those season passes from 2012, they’re still good!
Thanks for reading On Point. You can learn more about the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust on Facebook. Don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, Linked In, Pinterest and YouTube.
Also, please consider voting for Point B Realty for Best of the Vineyard 2013 for Best Real Estate Company, voting ends March 31st. Thank you!