Charles I. D. Looff

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Charles I. D. Looff
Charles I. D. Looff.jpg
Born (1852-05-24)May 24, 1852
Bramstedt, Duchy of Holstein, Denmark
Died July 1, 1918(1918-07-01) (aged 66)
Long Beach, California
Spouse(s) Anna Dolle
Children Anna (1875-1896)
Helen (1877-1956)
Emma (1879-1938)
Charles (1881-1924)
William (1883-1945)
Arthur (1888-1970)

Charles I. D. Looff was an American master carver and builder of hand-carved carousels and amusement rides. Looff built the first carousel at Coney Island in 1876. During his lifetime, he manufactured over 50 carousels, several amusements parks, numerous roller coasters and Ferris wheels, and built California's famous Santa Monica Pier. He became famous for creating the unique Coney Island style of carousel carving. A carousel museum is located at 2500 Long Beach Blvd, Long Beach, California 90806.

From Denmark to Brooklyn[edit]

Charles Looff was born in Bramstedt, Duchy of Holstein, Denmark on May 24, 1852 as Karl Jurgen Detlev Looff. He learned the art of woodcarving and immigrated to the United States, arriving in New York City on August 14, 1870. Settling on Leonard Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, he found work as a carver at a furniture factory. Working part-time as a ballroom dance instructor, Looff met and married Anna Dolle in 1874. After working in the furniture factory all day, he took scraps of wood home to his apartment and began carving them into carousel animals. Young Looff assembled his wooden horses and animals onto a circular platform and created his first merry-go-round. In 1876, he installed his ride at Vandeveer's Bathing Pavilion at West Sixth Street and Surf Avenue. This was Coney Island's first carousel.

Charles Looff opened a factory at 30 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn and built two more carousels, doing all the carving himself. He located one at Feltman's Beer Garden on Surf Avenue, Coney Island, and the other at Young's Million Dollar Pier at Atlantic City, New Jersey. Impressed with this new kind of amusement ride, Mr. Young bought it from the ecstatic carver. Looff began to hire expert carvers such as John Zalar, Marcus Charles Illions, John Mueller and Charles Carmel to help with his expanding business.

Charles and Anna produced six children: Anna (1875–1896), Helen (1877–1956), Emma (1879–1938), Charles (1881–1924), William (1883–1945), Arthur (1888–1970). All except Anna, who died at age 21 as a result of a trolley accident, would work with their father in the carousel business. When the City of New York took his property under eminent domain to build a city park, Looff moved his family to Crescent Park, in Riverside, Rhode Island.

Rhode Island Years[edit]

The Flying Horses (1890), reinstalled at Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts 1914-1976

In 1886, Colonel George Boyden established an amusement park named Crescent Park in Riverside, Rhode Island on 50 acres (200,000 m2) overlooking the Providence River. Boyden commissioned Charles I. D. Looff to build a large carousel at the head of a 400-foot pier that received throngs of people from the steamboats that cruised up and down the Bay. Crescent Park became known as "the Coney Island of the East" during this time. In 1895, Charles I. D. Looff built another, larger and more elaborate carousel overlooking the midway. He used this ride as a showpiece for prospective buyers to choose the types of carved horses for their machines. Looff built his workshop adjoining the carousel. Here he would produce many merry-go-rounds for amusement parks in New England and across the United States. Looff's daughter, Helen, and her husband, Charles Simmons bought the ride from Looff's widow's estate in 1930. This carousel has been restored, is still operating in its original location and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. In 1985, the Rhode Island General Assembly proclaimed the Carousel as the "State Jewel of American Folk Art". In 1987, the United States Department of Interior, National Park Service, designated the Carousel as a National Historic Landmark.

Charles Looff's son, Charles, worked in the shop carving saddles and chariots for his father. In 1920, young Charles purchased Crescent Park and operated it until his death. He installed many of the popular rides of the time, including the Rivers of Venice, and the Shoot the Chutes. He converted the huge exhibition hall into the Alhambra Ballroom by adding large roof trusses and removing the many columns, thereby opening the whole floor into one big space. Looff's son, Charles, also built an excursion boat, which he named the “Miss Looff” after his sister Anna, which cruised the waters of Narragansett Bay and the Providence River bringing customers from Providence and Newport, Rhode Island to Crescent Park. Son Charles married Emma Simmons, the sister of Charles Simmons, who had married Helen Looff. In 1909, Charles I. D. Looff built a beautiful carousel with 54 horses and gave it to his daughter, Emma, as a wedding present, when she married Louis Vogel. The ride was installed at Natatorium Park in Spokane, Washington.

California Years[edit]

Charles I. D., meanwhile, had become enchanted with the possibilities for amusement parks on the West coast and in August 1910 moved to California, leaving Helen and Charles Simmons, son Charles and Emma Looff to manage the family properties in Rhode Island. Charles I. D. Looff settled in Long Beach and built a factory on West Sixth Street. He purchased property at The Pike, an amusement area on Long Beach’s waterfront, and built a magnificent merry-go-round there. The family lived in an apartment above the ride. Son, Arthur, also operated Lite-a-line, a type of Fascination (game) at the Pike that is still in operation today at 2500 Long Beach Blvd Long Beach, CA 90806[1] it was subsequently moved in the early part of the 21st century it also houses a small but very detailed and vivid museum in honor of his carvings and ride technology but most specifically looff's CA Long Beach pike attraction. In 1943, the carousel was destroyed by fire and replaced with another Looff merry-go-round.

In 1916, Looff with his son, Arthur, designed and built Looff's Santa Monica Pier along the south-side of the city’s long, narrow, municipal pier. They constructed a large Byzantine-Moorish style "Hippodrome" building to house one of their ornate carousels, now known as the Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome. The Looff‘s also erected the Blue Streak Racer wooden roller coaster on their new pleasure pier, along with The Whip and the Aeroscope thrill ride.

In addition to Santa Monica and the Pike, Looff built and operated amusement parks and carousels at Ocean Park, Redondo Beach, Venice Beach, Santa Cruz as well as Griffith Park Los Angeles[2](still in operation) which coincidentally is the very spot that helped to serve as Walt Disney's inspiration to develop design and eventually build Disneyland and subsequent following theme parks[3] to this day, Disneyland Resort still has in its displayed collection the very park bench that he sat on as he watched his daughters and day dreamed about a new type of park and totally immersive theme park experience.There has also been a actual Loof carasoul carved horse added to the exhibit at the entrance to the moments with Lincoln attraction at Disneyland Pak, Anaheim, CA[4] Looff built an amusement Park in Seattle called Luna Park. Looff also built merry-go-rounds and roller coasters for the Oklahoma and Texas State Fairs. Charles I. D. Looff died on July 1, 1918 in Long Beach, California. After his death, his son, Arthur, continued to manage the family's West coast operation, including building the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

The Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome and the Santa Cruz Looff Carousel and Roller Coaster were both designated National Historic Landmarks in 1987.

Looff carousels[edit]

List of Looff carousels
Year Name Location Notes
1876 Vandeveer's Bathing Pavilion Carousel Coney Island, New York Name changed to Balmer's Bathing Pavilion. menagerie, no jumpers, the first of over 25 carousels at Coney Island, burned in the Dreamland fire of 1911
1877 Feltman's Carousel Feltman's Beer Garden, Coney Island, New York menagerie, no jumpers, built, partially burned in the West Brighton fire of 1899, or possibly earlier because Feltman (the inventor of the hot dog) bought a second carousel from Looff in the 1890s.
1880 Coney Island Carousel Coney Island, New York
1886 Half Moon Beach Carousel Crescent, New York
1888 Palace Amusements Carousel Historical Asbury Park, New Jersey All horses had real horse hair tails. A few animals were carved by Gustav Dentzel to meet a deadline for the three row, brass ring carousel. Operated 1888-1988 until the beach-front, indoor amusement park, Palace Amusements, closed. The 78 animals were individually auctioned & the Carousel unit as one piece. Palace Amusements was put on the National Register of Historic Places before being demolished in 2004.[5]
1890 Young's Pier Carousel Young's Pier, Atlantic City, New Jersey
1888 Glendale Park Flying Jenny Carousel Nashville,Tennessee 1888 to 1932
1890 Broadway Flying Horses Carousel Coney Island, New York Located at Coney Island until 1905. At Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts. from 1914-1976. Moved to Seaport Village, San Diego, California in 1980.
c. 1890 Midland Beach Carousel Midland Beach, Staten Island, New York operated 1890 to 1905, 3 abreast, menagerie
1890 to 1897 South Beach Carousel Staten Island, New York
1891 Rocky Point Amusement Park Carousel Warwick, Rhode Island
1890 to 1897 Narragansett Pier Carousel Narragansett, Rhode Island
1895 Lincoln Park Carousel Dartmouth, Massachusetts
1896 Lake Compounce Carousel Lake Compounce, Bristol, Connecticut originally located at Savin Rock, West Haven, Connecticut, moved to present location in 1911
c. 1893 Roger Williams Park Carousel Providence, Rhode Island replaced in 1937 with PTC #44
1894 The Looff Carousel at Slater Park Slater Memorial Park, Pawtucket, Rhode Island originally located at Roger William's Park, Providence, RI. Moved to present location in 1910. Originally was fastest Looff carousel made-was slowed down recently. Listed on National Register of Historic Places.
1895 Fair Park Carousel Dallas, Texas 1958 to 1967: Pacific Ocean Park, Santa Monica, California; 1967 to 1982: Spanaway, Washington; 1982 to 1992: Willamette Center, Portland, Oregon; 1992 to 1997: AmeriFlora '92, Columbus, Ohio; 1997 to present: Media City Center Mall, Burbank, California, told to move 2004 to Present: Seaport Village, San Diego, California.
1895 Crescent Park Carousel Crescent Park, East Providence, Rhode Island used by Looff as showcase for his work, all animals different; operational brass rings; Ruth & Sons organ; listed on National Register of Historic Places
1898 Canobie Lake Park Carousel Salem, New Hampshire moved to present location in 1906
1889 Salisbury Beach Carousel Salisbury, Massachusetts 1889 to 1907
1898 Rosen Heights Carousel Fort Worth, Texas 1898 to 1907.
1900 Goddard Park Carousel Goddard Park, Warwick, Rhode Island originally located at Lakeside Park, Syracuse, New York, moved 1908 to Rocky Point Amusement Park, Rhode Island and 1930 to present location
1903 Lakeside Park Carousel Lakeside Park, Port Dalhousie, Ontario moved to present location in 1921
1905 Island Park Carousel Portsmouth, Rhode Island survived 1938 hurricane
1904 The Children's Creativity Museum -- LeRoy King Carousel Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco, California built in 1904 for San Francisco, sent to instead Seattle's Luna Park due to 1906 earthquake, returned to Playland-At-The-Beach, San Francisco in 1914 until 1972; 1972 to 1984: In storage at Roswell, New Mexico for restoration; 1984 to 1998: Shoreline Village, California; 1998: Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco, California
1908 Heritage Museum Carousel Heritage Museums and Gardens, Sandwich, Massachusetts original location Crescent Park,Riverside, Rhode Island, moved to Meridian, Mississippi, then to Provincetown, Massachusetts, then to present location in 1969
1909 Lakeside Carousel International Market World, Auburndale, Florida originally located in Harvey Lake, Pennsylvania, moved to Florida in 1986 and present location in 1996
1909 Natatorium Park, Spokane, Washington . A wedding gift for Looff's daughter Emma Looff and her husband Louis Vogel, who later owned Natatorium Park; moved to present location at Riverfront Park in Spokane in 1975; operational brass rings; Ruth & Sons organ; National Historic Landmark
1909 Whalom Park Carousel[6] Lunenburg, Massachusetts Moved to Whalom Park in 1912, Featured 2 Looff Sea Dragons,[6][7] Broken up at auction April 15, 2000[7]
1909 Oklahoma State Fair Carousel Oklahoma City, Oklahoma with a figure 8 coaster
1909 Sherman's Carousel Caroga Lake, New York Looff/Murphy carousel platform and mechanism populated with 50 metal animals by (Theel mfg.), in original 12-sided Looff carousel building w/ stained glass windows. Original hand-carved Looff animals were sold in late 1970s to private collectors. Carousel is owned privately and available only for private functions at this time. *Note: This carousel is almost identical to the one operated at Lake Compounce in Connecticut.
1910 Carousel of Happiness Nederland, Colorado originally located at Saltair Park, Salt Lake City, Utah, moved to American Fork, Utah in 1959 and sold for parts in 1986; Scott Harrison used the Looff frame and installed new, whimsically-carved figures[8]
1910 Dr. Floyd L. Moreland Looff/Dentzel Carousel Casino Pier, Seaside Heights, New Jersey Relocated from Burlington Island Park, New Jersey in 1932. [9] The chariots and some animals were carved by Dentzel, Morris, Carmel, and Illions. Located in a 10-sided unenclosed building on boardwalk pier; 4 Rows, 35 Jumping Horses, 18 Standing Horses, 5 Menagerie Animals (1 Lion, 1 Tiger, 1 Mule, 2 Camels), 2 Chariots, 2016 Lightbulbs, and 15 original antique paintings from 1910 in center casing.[10] The music is provided by the only continuously operating Wurlitzer 146 Military Band Organ in the state.[11] Dr. Floyd L. Moreland bought and restored it in 1984. The carousel survived Hurricane Sandy in 2012. [12]
1911 The Pike Carousel Long Beach, California burned down in 1943
1911 Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Carousel Santa Cruz, California National Historic Landmark, brass rings, still in use at original location
1911 Fantasy Fair Carousel Fantasy Fair, Toronto, Ontario moved to present location in 1988; Looff platform, fiberglass animals
c. 1911 Lighthouse Point Park Carousel New Haven, Connecticut original location unknown, moved to present location in 1916
1911 Fraser's Million Dollar Pier Carousel Santa Monica, California Burned down in September 1912
1911 Venice Pier Carousel Venice, California
c. 1912 Grand Carousel Knoebels, Elysburg, Pennsylvania moved to present location in 1941 from Riverview Park in Rahway, New Jersey; Looff frame, Carmel horses; operational brass rings
1914 Pan Pacific International Exposition Carousel San Francisco, California
1914 RAB Amusements Carousel Keansburg, New Jersey
1916 Santa Monica Pier Carousel Santa Monica, California replaced in 1947 with PTC #62; Looff Hippodrome carousel building is a National Historic Landmark
1925 Redondo Beach Carousel Redondo Beach, California After being removed from Redondo Beach, the carousel remained in the Looff factory which was purched by Ross R. Davis and his son John O. Davis. Some of the outside row figures remained with the Looff family.
1926 Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California Spillman/Looff mix. The carousel, which is still running, was originally a Spillman. After the Davis family purchased the contents of the Looff factory, some of the Looff figures were intersperced with the original Spillmans.
1928 Van Andel Museum Carousel Grand Rapids, Michigan original location Lakewood Park, Barnesville, Pennsylvania, moved to present location in 1982


  1. ^
  2. ^ [[Charles I. D. Looff~~~~]]
  3. ^
  4. ^ File:Griffith Park Bench.jpg
  5. ^ "The Carousel." Christopher Flynn. "Inside The Sotheby's Auction." Claire Whiteside. Palace Museum Online,, Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Great Old Amusement Parks", WQED (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), 1999, ISBN 0-7806-2736-9
  7. ^ a b "Minerva - A Sea Dragon", The Carousel News & Trader, November 2004, Edna Caskey Wieier
  8. ^ Lawlor, Barbara (2006-12-13). Carousel of Happiness offered to Nederland, The Mountain Ear.
  9. ^
  10. ^ The American Carousel Association. "Dr. Floyd L. Moreland Carousel." Census., Retrieved September 12, 2013.
  11. ^ "The Antique Carousel.", Retrieved September 12, 2013.
  12. ^
  • A Pictorial History of the Carousel by Frederick Fried - 1964
  • The Great American Carousel by Tobin Fraley - 1994
  • Carousel Art - A magazine for people who love merry-go-rounds-PO Box 667, Garden Grove, California 92642
  • Painted Ponies by William Manns, Peggy Shank, Marianne Stevens - 1986
  • Art of the Carousel by Charlotte Dinger - 1984
  • A History of the American Amusement Industry by William F. Mangels
  • The Carousel Keepers, An Oral History of American Carousels by Carrie Papa - 1998
  • Rhode Island Amusement Parks by Rob Lewis and Ryan Young - 1998
  • A Century of Fun-A Pictorial History of New england Amusement Parks by Bob Goldsack -1993
  • Dear Old Nat...Spokane's Playground by Nostalgia Magazine - 2003
  • Early American Wood Carving by Erwin O. Christensen - 1952
  • Lincoln Park Remembered 1894-1987 edited by Thomas, McCabe and Furtado - 1999
  • Coney Island: The People's Playground by Michael Immerso - 2002
  • Fairground Art by Geoff Weedon - 2003
  • History of Revere Beach Peter McCauley, City Hall, Revere, Mass. - 1980