A piece of history from the Mahoning Valley may be on its way to having a permanent home in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge.
That is, if the woman who paid almost $400,000 for the 86-year-old Idora Park carousel some 24 years ago succeeds in her efforts to move the landmark. The carousel currently is on display inside a building in Brooklyn. Jane Walentas, who bought the ride in 1984, wants to make it a working outdoor amusement ride so it can once again provide joy and excitement like it did for thousands of Mahoning Valley residents in the 20th century.
"Nearly 25 years ago, I began what some might call a quest to rescue and restore one of the country's most beautiful historic carousels," said Jane Walentas.
David and Jane Walentas have completely restored the carousel and hope to find a home for it in Brooklyn Bridge Park, across the East River from lower Manhattan.
It has taken the couple 22 years to completely restore the carousel back to its former glory. The carousel, now named Jane's Carousel, is not open to the public for rides, but Walentas hopes to change that soon. The Walentas are asking for support from everyone who loved the carousel when it was an important piece of the Idora midway. An organization has been created called Friends of Jane's Carousel to help achieve that goal.
Idora Park was a staple on the south side of Youngstown for nearly 100 years until it was forced to suddenly close down because of a devastating fire in 1984. Millions of people over the years found amusement at the park from its world renowned roller coasters to its giant swimming pool in Kiddieland. The classic wooden carousel, originally built in 1922, was purchased at the auction following the closing of the park by the Walentas for $384,000.
Idora Park opened on May 30, 1899, as Terminal Park near Mill Creek Park, renamed Idora Park as a result of a contest in late 1899. The park's greatest attraction was an old wooden roller coaster called the Wildcat, which was built in 1929. At the time, the Wildcat was hailed by many roller coaster enthusiasts as one of the best in the world. A section of the Wildcat was tragically one of the major casualties of the fire that eventually closed the park. At the time of the park's closing, the Wildcat was still ranked among the top 10 coasters in the world.
The park was beloved by the people in Youngstown and the entire Mahoning Valley, Walentas said, and she said she is proud to own a piece of it.
Leonard Cavalier of Boardman, who was part owner of Idora Park when it closed, said that one of his daughters who lives in the New York area saw the carousel and thought Jane did a good job of restoring it. Cavalier speculated that the ride could be worth more than $1 million today.
''It would be a shame if Jane couldn't get it put in a place for the public to view it and enjoy it and ride it," he said.
The Walentas are not seeking any financial support in their endeavor. They are sending out postcards with the carousel's picture on it in hopes that people would write back and demand a new home for the Idora Park landmark.
"I have already committed to contributing both the carousel and the cost of a new building to house it," said Walentas. "What we will need, however, is for you, your family and friends to add your names to the thousands of other Friends of Jane's Carousel advocating in support of a new home."
Walentas is sending postcards urging people in the area to help support the carousel and become charter members of Friends of Jane's Carousel. For more information on how to become a charter member and help find a home for Jane's Carousel, contact Jane Walentas at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-233-2953.