Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Bickleton's Carousel Museum

Offbeat Museums

It's hard to believe I've been writing about travel for six years now.  While searching for magical moments, I have come across many carousels and written about them for this blog.  The carved horses are masterpieces of American Folk Art.  To own one of these treasures is a secret desire of mine. So when the waitress at the Bluebird Inn in tiny Bickleton, Washington, told us about the Carousel Museum across the street, my eyes widened and my jaw dropped. 

And . . . it was truly wonderful.

The 24 horses in the museum were part of a portable track carousel built by the Herschell-Spillman Company back in 1905.  The carousel's first home was Portland, Oregon, but in 1929, the Alder Creek Pioneer Association bought it and moved it to the picnic grounds in Cleveland, Washington, another tiny town in Klickitat County.  Over the years this little carousel has been ridden by folks, both young and old so you can imagine the wear and tear on these poor creatures.

Happily, in 1968 the Bickleton-Cleveland community started a major campaign to restore all of the horses to their original splendor and this endeavor continued into the 90's.  Today, they are housed in this delightful little museum, BUT . . . every June during the annual pioneer picnic and rodeo, they are re-attached to the carousel and people line up for blocks to ride it. 


Now . . . allow me to digress a bit.  While researching these early 20th century carousels, I came across a series of events that once again widened my eyes and dropped my jaw.  "You aren't going to believe this," I yelled to my travel buddy. 

In 2015, we moved from Santa Barbara, California, to the Columbia River Gorge.  One of my posts while living in Santa Barbara was about riding the historic 1916 carousel in Chase Palm Park.    Well, unbelievably (and unbeknownst by me) this gorgeous old carousel was moved to the International Carousel Museum in Hood River, Oregon in 2017.  (Sorry, Independent, but boy oh boy did you get this story wrong!)

What carousel museum?  There's no carousel museum in Hood River.

Well, it turns out there used to be, but closed five years ago because Hood River banned tour buses from the downtown area and the museum lost its traffic.  The entire collection was moved to an old abandoned mill in Dee.  However, the building's roof collapsed last year in the winter storms and many of the antiques were damaged.  They were either covered with tarps or moved to other buildings.   The owners, Duane and Carol Perron, are now in their 80's but still optimistic their collection of over 1,000 carousel horses will find a new home.  Maybe in the Old Mill itself.  A new roof has been put on and plans continue to eventually open a new International Carousel Museum right there in little old Dee.  Yikes!

If it happens, it will be a miracle.  If it doesn't, it will be a tragedy. 

Map in Museum of operating carousels

I have put the weekend of June 8th on my calendar.  The chance to ride on an original Herschell-Spellman Carousel is becoming increasingly rare.  I'll wait in line all day if I have to.

Stay Tuned  

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