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The jewel of Centreville – The Centreville Antique Carousel

August 2020

Carousels, or merry-go-rounds, have been popular amusement park attractions for around two centuries. These circular rides commonly feature wooden horses, but may also feature an assortment of other wooden animals like pigs, zebras, lions, tigers, mythological creatures like dragons or unicorns, bench seats, aeroplanes or cars.

While the ride is in motion, the animals or other mounts, except the bench seats, will move up and down on brass poles to simulate galloping, along with circus music, often played by such devices as a Wurlitzer Organ, either an automated one or played from a tape.

The Centreville Amusement Park on Toronto Island in Toronto, Ontario, has a historic carousel among its attractions; a hand carved wooden 1907 carousel, made by the G.A. Dentzel Steam & Horsepower Company, formerly of Germantown, Pennsylvania, a company that ceased operations in 1928, and is one of only 30 left today.

It’s the only one of its kind in Canada.

Acquired in 1964 from Bushkill Park in Easton, Pennsylvania, it features 52 hand carved animals include cats, an ostrich, pigs, a lion and rabbits, unlike most that feature horses, 36 of which move up and down on brass poles, and two ornate bench seats. The music comes from an automated Wurlitzer organ.

Centreville almost lost the carousel in 2017, when park owners Beasley Amusements, facing huge financial losses due to flooding from high water levels in Lake Ontario from that summer, which forced the closure of the island to visitors, began negotiations to sell the carousel to the City of Carmel. Ultimately, the deal fell-through and it appears Beasley will not be selling it after-all.

The creation of the Centreville Amusement Park

The Centreville Amusement Park opened in 1967, as a part of a plan by the City of Toronto to transform the Toronto Islands to recreational usage from a residential cottage enclave.

Owned and operated by Beasley Amusements, it replaced Sunnyside Amusement Park, formerly located on Toronto’s waterfront at the foot of Roncesvalles Avenue, which closed in 1955 to accommodate construction of the Gardiner Expressway.

Centreville features over 30 rides and attractions, including the above mentioned carousel, a log flume ride, a miniature roller-coaster, a miniature train, bumper boats, swan ride, a sky ride, a Scrambler and an antique Ferris wheel, designed to look like a windmill, that was acquired from Crystal Beach Park in Fort Erie, after its closure in 1989.

Beasley Amusements took over operation of Far Enough Farm, located at the east end of their park, in 2013, we it appeared the hobby farm may have to close. Far Enough Farm opened in 1959, and features an assortment of farm animals, including rabbits, goats, pigs, chickens, cows, ponies, emus and peafowl, many of which roamed freely.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_oldest_buildings_and_structures_in_Toronto, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/centreville-carousel-no-go-carmel-1.4296625, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centreville_Amusement_Park, https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/07/19/toronto-centre-islands-110-year-old-carousel-sold-for-3-million.html, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushkill_Park, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carousel

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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