Why the Different Spellings?
The word “carousel” is spelled with one “r” in the United States but two “r”s in Europe. Since Charles
Looff was a Danish immigrant, his attractions have traditionally taken the European spelling — carrousel.
We've kept that spelling throughout our website for continuity.
Charles I. D. Looff was a naturalized American master carver and creator of carrousels and amusement rides.
He built the first carrousel at Coney Island in 1876 and became famous for its unique style. He eventually
constructed amusement parks across the US — including Santa Monica Pier — but only created 50
carrousels during his lifetime.
There is a widely circulated story that Charles Looff built Spokane's Carrousel for his daughter as a wedding present.
However, it was originally commissioned by an electric trolley company known as Spokane Traction. This company was a
subsidiary of Washington Water Power. Why would a trolley company buy a carrousel? Income. They wanted a
carrousel as an attractive destination — an incentive for people to ride the trolley to Natatorium “Nat”
park; which was to be the Carrousel's new home.
However, upon delivery in 1909, Spokane Traction could not pay the $20,000
price tag. Charles gave the Carrousel to his daughter, Emma, under the condition that she and her husband Lewis Vogel would
be allowed to install it and operate it at Natatorium Park. Emma and Lewis proved to be so successful as “concessionaires”
that they were eventually able to buy the entire park from Spokane Traction in 1929 … for the sum of $100,000.
The Carrousel has 54 horses and a Ruth & Sohn Band Organ imported from Germany. Each horse is a masterpiece —
intricately carved and painted, and finished with real horse hair tails and over 1000 glass jewels.
The early part of the 20th Century was considered the “golden age” of carrousels and the Looff
became “Nat Park's” destination attraction.
By 1968, times had changed. Nat Park finally closed due to lack of attendance. The Carrousel was purchased that same year
by the City of Spokane for $40,000, thanks in large part to supporters who succeeded in persuading the City Council that
it would be a worthy investment. The City successfully revived and installed the Carrousel at Riverfront Park in 1975
in Expo's German Beer Garden building where it remained for more than 40 years.
As the age of the figures began to approach the hundred-year mark, an emphasis was placed on repair and preservation. The animals
were placed in the care of artist and Looff Historian, Bette Largent. Bette's knowledge, artistic skill and passion for
authenticity have returned the Looff figures to their original glory. Now, for the first time in her 25-plus years of caring for
the Carrousel, Bette has the opportunity to have all the horses in her workshop for a thorough restoration. The result will be incredible.
It's said that a Looff Carrousel in California became Walt Disney's inspiration for Disneyland. It's easy to see why. Looff Carrousels
are magical; extraordinary, mechanized artistic history. When our carrousel opens again in 2018, we hope it inspires you too. And brings
you joy … whatever your age.