National Carousel Day comes around once again: The history of Greater Binghamton carousels

Known as Carousel Capitol of the world, Greater Binghamton has a deep history when it comes to merry-go-rounds.
This is a recurring recording of WBNG's 6pm newscast.
Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 7:32 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BINGHAMTON (WBNG) -- Whether you’re from the area or not, you know it’s a big day for some of our area parks.

For the past eight decades, Broome County carousels have been open for all to enjoy, and they’ll be open for the next eight decades doing the same exact thing.

It’s a tune the Triple Cities knows best.

Known as Carousel Capitol of the world, Greater Binghamton has a deep history when it comes to merry-go-rounds.

Beginning in the early 1920′s, George F. Johnson of the Endicott-Johnson Shoe Company made it his mission to donate multiple carousels between Binghamton, Johnson City and Endicott.

“I think it’s an important part of George F. Johnson’s legacy,” said Phelps Mansion Museum House Manager Joe Schuerch. “Supposedly, when he was a kid he couldn’t pay the nickle to ride the carousels. So, starting in 1920 through 1934, he just kept donating these carousels to different parks in the community with the stipulation they’d be free for anybody to ride.”

There’s only 170 wood carved carousels left in the U.s. and Canada, and six of them right here in our own back yard which date back over a century.

The first carousel from G.F. Johnson was donated in 1920 to the Ross Park Zoo, then another at C.F. Johnson Park in 1923, Recreation and Highland Park in 1925, West Endicott Park in 1929, and G.W. Johnson Park in 1934.

“The hand-carved wooden carousels are for sure kind of a unique thing,” Schuerch said. “It’s not something you probably see too much of anymore. So, to have six of those here in the area is a unique treasure in the community.”

All of the carousels were made at Herchell Carousel Factory in North Tonawanda.

Each with its own unique features and stories for years to come, including Recreation Park being the inspiration behind Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone” episode “Walking Distance.”

“If people have lived in the community for for a long time, there are kids whose grandparents might have rode these carousels when they were growing up. So, it kind of becomes a family tradition to ride the carousels and carry that tradition on through the years with new generations of family,” said Schuerch.

The carousels are free to ride, and if you ride all six, you can earn a button for completing the carousel circuit.

Copyright 2022 WBNG. All rights reserved.