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Woodhaven activists seek to preserve park’s carousel

Community activists in Woodhaven want the neighborhood’s Forest Park Carousel to be registered as a state or national landmark to save it from future demolition or disassembly.

A partnership of civic organizations is asking local elected officials to help them in their quest to preserve the carousel, which began operating in 1903.

“The only way to save it for posterity is to landmark it,” said Maria Thompson, president of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation, who said she has been trying to protect the carousel for more than 12 years. “And one time it had fallen into disarray, so we wanted it preserved and not broken down.”

Thompson said her organization has contacted and gotten support from Community Board 9 as well as state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) and U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills).

Maltese was away visiting a sick relative and was unavailable for comment. His spokeswoman, Vicki Vattimo said, she believed the senator would support legislation to put the carousel on the state registry of historic sites.

“We are going to look into this and certainly the Forest Park Carousel is something that is worthy of historic preservation,” she said.

The Woodhaven carousel would have to be listed as a state, not a city, landmark because it is not a permanent fixture, said Community Board 9 District Manager Mary Ann Carey. She said she sent out a letter to Maltese asking for his help in securing the protection of the carousel because state legislation is the first step in preserving the site.

“No one has made any gestures to take away the carousel,” said Carey. “We just want to be on the safe side, it’s just a treasure.”

A fire destroyed the original carousel on Dec. 11, 1966, which prompted the site’s concessionaire, Restaurant Associates, to buy a carousel crafted by Daniel Carl Muller, an immigrant from Germany who came to Philadelphia in the 1880s and started carving wood figures for area carousels, according to the Forest Park Web site.

Muller worked with the Dentzel Company on what is now known as the Forest Park Carousel, whose frame was built in 1890 and for which Muller crafted the animals in 1903. The site was fully restored and operated until 1985, and then got another renovation in 1988. The carousel contains 49 horses, a lion, a tiger, a deer and two chariots arranged in three concentric circles.

A spokesman for Weiner said state legislation would have to be passed to make the carousel a state historic site. The process could then continue, he said, if the federal Department of the Interior decides to put the carousel on the federal Registry of Historic Places.

“We do help out with these ventures but we have not yet received any formal proposals,” he said.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 156

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