The volunteer wood-carvers and painters at the Albany Historic Carousel and Museum have been getting visitors for years–since the carving studio first opened its doors in 2002, visitors from every continent have toured the downtown studio to get an up-close view of the creative process in action.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, a team of builders and engineers have been hard at work restoring a historic carousel mechanism, which is now fully functional and ready for visitors of its own.
Housed on private property in a warehouse belonging to a carousel volunteer, the mechanism is available for tours at 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoons. To arrange a spot on an upcoming mechanism tour, call the Carousel Project at 541-791-3340.
The mechanism dates back to 1909 and was donated by the Dentzel family, a family with a history of carousel-building that goes back to 1850s Germany. When Dentzel descendents learned of Albany's all-volunteer, non-profit carousel, they donated the historic mechanism to the carousel project.
An octogenarian woodworker from the tiny farming town of Shedd just south of Albany, created wooden teeth for the gears that turn on top of the carousel. Less noisy than metal-on-metal, the wooden gears allow the carousel's traditional music to be heard clearly. At 50 feet in diameter and 25 feet tall, the re-assembled carousel mechanism gives visitors an idea of the impressive experience they can expect when the carousel is complete.
The mechanism is not only restored, but updated; computerized electric controls donated by North Coast Electric allow the operator to start, stop, and back up the carousel with the push of a button. A platform will allow wheel-chair users to roll onto the carousel mechanism for a ride.
Four animals are currently residing on the mechanism: Fredrick the Rabbit, Igknighter the Dragon, Tuesday the cat and Sassie Mae the horse. Even though the carousel's full menagerie isn't yet present, when visitors see the carousel the reaction for both kids and adults is the same: to climb aboard and imagine what's in store when the project is complete.