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Historic Carousel Comes Full Circle, Returns to Memphis Home

December 20, 2017

On a Saturday afternoon in June 2015, members of the media and visitors to the Children’s Museum of Memphis gathered to watch the once Grand Dentzel Carousel begin the journey to Marion, Ohio inside four FedEx Custom Critical Trucks. A beloved piece of Memphis history since 1923, it would be twenty-nine months before the carousel returned home after undergoing a complete restoration authentic to its original design.

With fond memories of the carousel at its original home in Memphis’ Libertyland amusement park, FedEx Driver Robert Thomas wanted to be part of its return to a new home at the Children’s Museum, by offering to help offload the horses and chariots. “This carousel is a part of Memphis history. My parents took me to ride the carousel, I took my kids to ride the carousel, and will now get to bring my grandkids to ride the carousel.”

During the restoration period, a brand-new Carousel Pavilion & Ballroom was built as the home for the ride. The Pavilion features large circular glass and a sweeping 40-foot high wooden roof patterned after early 1900-era structures designed by carousel creator Gustave Dentzel.

Now open to the public, memories can be relived and new ones created as this historic gem delights future generations of riders.

Carousel restorer Todd Goings shared, “There are very few times in your life that you get to ride a piece of history. Most of the time you go to a museum and you stand behind a fence or gate and look. The Memphis Carousel is a national treasure ready to entertain riders for the next one hundred years.”

Memphis Grand Carousel
Memphis Grand Carousel
Memphis Grand Carousel
Memphis Grand Carousel
Memphis Grand Carousel

A Grand Carousel’s Second Act

November 30, 2015

One of the oldest, rarest and most famous hand-carved Dentzel carousels in the country lives in Memphis, TN. The “Grand Carousel” first began operating in 1909 and delighted children and families for almost 100 years. It last operated in a small amusement park in the heart of Memphis that closed in 2005.

The Dentzel Carousel Company was founded in the 1800s by German-born carver Michael Dentzel. He sent his son, Gustav, across the ocean to Philadelphia in 1850 with a full-size carousel in the belly of a steamer. Gustav established himself as a master craftsman, specializing in life-like, brightly painted, hand-carved animals. He and his sons ran the company and their “menagerie” was in great demand.

Gustav needed two full years to carve the entire Grand Carousel. It features 32 “jumper” horses, 16 “standers,” and two chariots. The rounding boards and sides include jesters and angels and flowered mirrors. The ride was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. There are only a small handful of original Dentzel carousels across the world still in operation.

This national treasure was dismantled several years ago and carefully stowed in trailers hidden away inside an unused coliseum. The Children’s Museum of Memphis (CMOM) has made it their mission to give this special ride a second life. They sent it to Carvings and Carousels, a special restoration company in Ohio, where over the next two years, it will carefully be returned to its original grandeur.

Moving the delicate, dismantled pieces across country and back requires very special, white-glove handling. FedEx Custom Critical has donated shipping services on both ends of the move – first to Carousels and Carvings in Marion, Ohio for a custom repair, and then back to Memphis in 2017 when the work is complete.

Dick Hackett, CEO of CMOM, grew up riding this same carousel. Hackett said that, when finished, it will be housed in a special pavilion at the museum. It will once again joyfully spin smiling children waving to their parents and create generations of happy memories.

“They’ll remember where they were, what they were wearing and who they were with,” Hackett said.

Memphis Grand Carousel
Close-up detail of Memphis Carousel's signature horse before restoration
Memphis Grand Carousel
Close-up detail of Memphis Carousel’s signature horse after paint strip
Memphis Grand Carousel
Reference color print for Memphis Carousel restoration
Memphis Grand Carousel
Chipping paint down to the base of Memphis Carousel signature horse for restoration
Memphis Grand Carousel
Chipping paint down to the base of Memphis Carousel signature horse for restoration
Memphis Grand Carousel
Memphis Carousel horses after paint strip
Memphis Grand Carousel
Previous patch work on Memphis Carousel horse exposed for restoration
Memphis Grand Carousel
Carousel and Carvings owner Todd Goings


    Sherri Cureton says:

    What an awesome story! So much history is lost to today’s “new and improved”. New and improved will never beat original. Thank you for the story.

    Landon Howse says:

    I’m so glad memphis is keeping something that has so much history and not relocating it. It’s nice that FedEx is offering their services to help keep this great pice of art here. Thanks for the wonderful story.

    Shah Zada says:

    Amazing story! My wife told me about this and glad to see FedEx is playing a role in making it possible!

    carolinie calicchio says:

    What a great way to hold on to the pass and thanks to our company for knowing the wealth that future generations to come may enjoy.

    Shirley Davis says:

    Great article. I wondered what happened to that beautiful ride. Every trip to the fairgrounds / Libertyland I had to ride the Merry-go-round. As an adult I rode it with my 2 sons and loved watching the horses and sleighs go buy. I still miss it and the roller coaster.

    D Waller says:

    I grew up in MEM and rode this Carousel many times. I am so thankful FedEx is offering it’s services. I agree with what Landon said. MEM should keep this treasure safe and secure for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.

    Leila Ebrahimnejad says:

    this is so lovely it makes me gush with pride and joy 🙂 Thank you custom critical 😀

    Pat Brown says:

    Great story! Just added this carousel to my list of places to go/things to see in the US!

    Cindy Curry says:

    in two years I will go to Memphis to ride the restored carousel.

    BELLE says:

    I love riding over & over again, thanks for bringing such everlasting fun memories..may GOD continue to Bless Memphis and her historic place for lasting history…

    cynthia brown says:

    I always loved the carousel as a kid great job fed ex

    Andy Reynolds says:

    What an awesome privilege to be a part of restoring an invaluable piece of Memphis memorabilia. Being a part of FedEx provides me the opportunity to be extremely proud of the role our company plays in, not only this, but countless acts of love and kindness throughout the world. Thank you FedEx. Thank you Mr. Smith.

    charmaine J. Freeman says:

    I’m proud to work for such a great company!! I remember riding this carousel. So now my grand girl can ride! Thanks to FedEx for playing such a grand part in this historical event!!!

    Gene Gionti says:

    I worked at Libertyland for many years as a Rides Supervisor. I operated the carousel, cleaned it, and helped maintain it. I am glad to see it fully restored so that people can continue to enjoy it. Such great memories. I have been a past member of the American Carousel Society and have been with FedEx now 31 years and am proud that FedEx played a role in getting the Grand Carousel restored!

    Eliza Denise Royal says:

    This was a fascinating story. I have not been to,”THE CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF MEMPHIS,”since being a Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools teacher assistant. I hope to revisit the museum soon.

    Emanuel Lawton says:

    Who paid for the move and restoration?

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