Skip to main content

Woodland Park Zoo’s historic carousel is 100 years old!

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications

This summer, Woodland Park Zoo is celebrating a very special birthday: Our Historic Carousel, which has been at the zoo since 2006, turns 100 years old! We love that this grand piece of cultural history has been part of so many special moments for our guests, and we hope it will be part of many more to come.

Woodland Park Zoo Historic Carousel. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo
The carousel, which features hand-carved horses and two chariots, was first constructed in 1918 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company and was only the 45th of its kind to be made. It has previously operated at the Cincinnati Zoo and the Great America Theme Park in Santa Clara, California. Eighteen years ago, Linda and Tom Allen, Candy Allen-Whitney and Thomas Allen and the Alleniana Foundation purchased the carousel and generously donated it to the zoo in the hope that generations of families would have the opportunity to experience a celebrated piece of American history. 

That dream finally came to fruition with a grand opening celebration in 2006 after a pavilion was built adjacent to the zoo’s North Meadow to house and protect the carousel. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have taken a spin on it and a portion of the fee for each ride goes to support the zoo's quality animal care and education programs.

Linda Allen, pictured with some of the carousel horses. 2004 photo by Seattle P-I
The historic carousel may be a century old but it has some very modern features too. In 2011, Seattle City Light helped us to install solar panels on the pavilion roof. The panels produce the 9,000 annual kilowatt-hours required to power the carousel, making it an important part of Woodland Park Zoo’s sustainability goal of reducing our carbon emissions to 25% below our 2009 levels by the year 2022. Click here to see a gauge of how much power it is generating over the last days, months and years.

Photo by Lauren LaPlante, Woodland Park Zoo.
Solar panels are installed on the roof of the carousel pavilion in 2011. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

The carousel completes an average of 100,000 rides per year for zoo guests of all ages—those who are young and those who are young-at-heart. Recently, zoo guest and supporter, Wendy Parsons even took her very first spin on the carousel to celebrate her 90th birthday! Happy birthday, Wendy! You’re welcome to come for a ride anytime.

Wendy Parsons, with husband Dave by her side, takes a spin on the historic carousel to celebrate her 90th birthday!
Woodland Park Zoo also provides around 7,500 free rides per year to ensure that the carousel remains available to all. In addition, the zoo partners with more than 600 human service organizations across Puget Sound to offer hundreds of thousands of complimentary zoo passes through its Community Access Program. Starting this year, a free carousel ride is included with every Community Access Program admission ticket. To further promote accessibility, the zoo has created the Zoo for All Endowment Fund to help ensure that the zoo’s extraordinary experiences remain affordable and inclusive for all children in the zoo’s shared community for centuries to come.

Catching a spin. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo.
We hope you’ll help us celebrate the Historic Carousel’s 100th birthday this summer! A 100th birthday celebration will take place June 28th on the North Meadow with an evening program that includes a relighting ceremony, guest speakers, complimentary cake pops for the first 500 guests and "carouselfie" opportunities. Free rides will start at 6:30 p.m. and the zoo will stay open until 8:30 p.m. as part of the Evening Zoo extended hours, which happens on select summer nights. All guests are encouraged to tag pics—be they old or new—with #WPZcarousel100 and #woodlandparkzoo to share your special memories!

Seattle Seafair princesses in 2013. Photo by Ryan Hawk, Woodland Park Zoo.
The thrill of your first ride. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo.
Celebrating your own birthday soon? Give your party animals a birthday to remember! A guaranteed party of a lifetime, the Historic Carousel features two special party rooms for the birthday child's party and carousel rides for up to 20 guests. Kids will delight in riding these antique carousel horses and it's sure to be a party remembered for the rest of their life!


Kaity said…
I still remember the first day I come here with my parents. I was really happy. I will bring my son to explore the atmosphere again hotmail log in