Twelve years ago. That was the last time anyone was able to ride the Memphis Grand Carousel at Libertyland.
For years, the carousel sat in storage at the Mid-South Coliseum waiting to make a comeback. Thanks to the Children’s Museum of Memphis, that comeback is about to happen.
“The biggest challenge was waiting until we got to this day,” says Art Davis, the chief operating officer for the Children’s Museum of Memphis.
The Memphis Grand Carousel is one of the oldest wooden carousels in the United States, calling the Bluff City home since 1923. But the carousel almost became an afterthought when its home at Libertyland closed in 2005. Luckily, the Children’s Museum of Memphis had different ideas.
“In a lot of cities today, the historic things are going away because of budgetary reasons or whatever reasons,” says Davis. “Now this gets to stay here so all the people that have memories of it are able to come back and relive those memories. “
The museum signed a 25-year lease with the city of Memphis for the carousel in 2014 and for the past two and a half years, the 48 horses that make up the iconic ride have undergone a painstaking, million dollar restoration by a group called Carousels and Carvings in Marion, Ohio.
“Once we removed the paint, we found a lot of the older repairs were wrapped in fiberglass with a lot of bolts and hardware and things like that and had to be dealt with,” says Todd Goings, the owner of Carousels and Carvings. “That’s something we didn’t really see going into it.”
Now those horses are back in Memphis, waiting to call the Children’s Museum of Memphis their new home. The old ride will even include a new feature: A special horse which is handicap accessible.
“What we wanted to make sure is that if someone was in a wheelchair, when they came into the chariot, they actually had a horse head coming off the front of it so that they would feel like they were on a horse, as well,” says Davis.
The carousel will be reassembled over the next month and will officially reopen to the public December 2nd at the Children’s Museum of Memphis. Once the carousel officially reopens, a piece of Memphis history will go right back to making memories for kids and adults alike.
“We get to touch both lives, both those who have already experienced it and those who have yet to experience it,” Davis says.