Invest in the Paragon Carousel
The Friends of the Paragon Carousel, Inc., whose mission is to preserve the Carousel at its current location and restore it to its original beauty, has embarked on a capital campaign to retire the debt incurred in the purchase of the Carousel and insure the financial stability necessary to complete its restoration.
The Paragon Carousel will enrich our lives and benefit all our families for generations. Your support, with a gift to the capital campaign, will ensure that the carousel is not just a fond memory.
Investments are offered in the following areas:
Adopt a Horse Program: $10,000
Adopt one of the sixty-six carousel horses. A commemorative brass nameplate will be placed at the foot of the horse and the donor will receive a framed photo of the horse.
Carousel Organ Restoration Program : $5,000
The organ needs repair and restoration. The estimated repairs alone are over $3,000. When completed, this organ will be the center piece of the “Motor House” restoration. Contributors will be honored with a brass nameplate on the organ.
Park Bench Program: $5,000
Contributors will be honored with a brass nameplate on a bench to be placed outside the carousel building.
Flower Planter Program: $2,500
A brass plate with the donor’s name or message will grace one of the planters to be placed around the carousel building.
Banner Program: $1,000
The rafters of the carousel building will sparkle with rainbow-colored banners depicting the donor’s name and/or business logo. The Banner Program is designed for businesses.
Brick Patio Program: $75
A patio area around the carousel building will contain individual engraved bricks acknowledging donors to the capital campaign.
Clock Tower Restoration Program: $350
Our business offices are actually located is in the Clock Tower Building right next to our Carousel. We are in the process of restorating this important historic building. For a $350 donation you can buy a window and have it installed. In appreciation of you generosity the Friends will put a brick in your honor in the brick patio that surrounds the Carousel.
By Elaine Pokropowicz
This year marks the eighty-third anniversary of the Paragon Carousel’s residence at Nantasket Beach.
Built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1928 for the owners of Nantasket’s Paragon Park, it is one of few classic working carousels that remain in their original hometowns. Most of the 88 Grand Carousels built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (the Paragon Carousel is #85) are found in amusement parks, recreation areas, and even at malls. Many of the original PTC carousels have burnt down or been dismantled with their pieces sold to collectors worldwide.
A carousel is considered “Grand” if it has three or more rows of horses or other figures. The Paragon Carousel has four rows and is highly decorated, having such ornamentation as beveled mirrors, original oil paintings. and elegant, realistic horses. With its beveled mirrors surrounding the motor house; 35 oil paintings of such diverse subjects as sailing ships, waterfalls, windmills, and a depiction of World War I doughboys planting the American flag; 36 cherubs; 18 goddess faces; and 66 horses luxuriously festooned with brightly colored draperies. and bejeweled with faux gemstones, the Paragon Carousel is indeed “Grand”. It is one of about 60 Grand carousels remaining in the United States, and for its entire 80 years has been bringing joy to the small, colorful seaside town of Hull.
By 1928, when the sparkling new carousel arrived at Paragon Park, Nantasket Beach had successfully combined Victorian luxury with amusement park gaiety to create the singular atmosphere that is the pride of Hull to this day. The Paragon Carousel stands as an icon to that dearly loved duality and is part of what attracts over 100,000 carousel riders each year.
Since 1826, when “The Sportsman,” a public house frequented by Daniel Webster opened, the tradition of luxurious hotels and the promise of cool summer breezes has attracted many interesting summer visitors to Nantasket Beach. In the 1830s, one of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s daughters spent time in Hull with her husband and family. Later in the century, Irish-American poet John Boyle O’Reilly enjoyed the yachting, fishing. band concerts. and walks on the beach that pleased so many visitors. Mr. O’Reilly and his family lived in the spacious home that is now the Hull Public Library. President Grover Cleveland vacationed at one of the grand hotels overlooking Nantasket Beach, and President Calvin Coolidge had a summer home on Hull Hill. Lizzie Borden’s defense attorney was a member of the Hull Yacht Club.
Grand hotels graced the hills and shoreline of Hull surrounding Nantasket Beach with wide piazzas for lounging in the sea air. The hotels contained elegant dining halls, parlors for Victorian-style relaxation, dancing halls for the young and the young-at-heart, plus bowling alleys and shooting galleries for the amusement of Victorian gentlemen. A bandstand facing the sea featured the cadet Band of Boston both afternoons and evenings. For seaside enthusiasts who sought less formal entertainment, Nantasket Beach restaurants offered fish dinners and chowder. There was a covered arcade lined with seating from which band music, people-watching, and the benefits of bracing sea air could be enjoyed by day-visitors. In the evening, electric lights illuminated these festivities.
Paragon Park, an amusement park built in 1905 by the Eastern Park Construction Company and run by George Dodge, magnified the favorite pastimes of Victorian Nantasket Beach to a magnificent level. Within its 25 acres, Paragon Park’s towers, medieval castle entrance, waving flags, pavilions, and lagoon, complete with gondolas rowed by authentic Venetian gondoliers, were all illuminated by brilliant neon and 100,000 electric lights whose reflection spilled gaily onto the sandy beach. David Stone and Albert Golden took over the park in 1920, and in 1928 they added one of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company’s last Grand Carousels.
The term “paragon” itself has several interesting meanings that can easily be applied to the park’s, then the carousel’s proper place in Nantasket Beach’s culture. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word was first used in writing in the 15th century to mean both “a touch stone used to try gold” and “a match or equal.” Later the word came to mean “a pattern or model of excellence: a match; a mate, companion; a consort in marriage,” even “a perfect diamond.” Any of these superlatives could have inspired the founders of Paragon Park to use the name, but it is also interesting that the train station in Hull, England–the town after which Hull, MA, was named in 1644–is called Paragon Station.
The Philadelphia Toboggan Company was founded in 1903 by partners Henry B. Auchy and Chester E. Albright. Mr. Auchy was the former general manager at Chestnut Hill Park in Philadelphia and owner of the Gray Amusement Park. Mr. Albright was an engineer and surveyor who also ran the Albright Purse Company, his family’s business located in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Manufacturing and erecting toboggan slides (what we now call roller coasters) was their primary interest but by 1907, due to the effects of a financial depression on the toboggan slide business, carousels became their primary product. Most of their carousels were leased to parks for a period of five to 10 years, after which they would often be moved to a new location. Carousel production ended in 1931 as a result of the Great Depression.
During the period 1903-1931, the Philadelphia Toboggan achieved excellence in the production of Grand Carousels. An article in the 1917 Germantown Guide explained that the carousels were manufactured by “a small army of cabinet makers, wood workers, carvers, skilled artists of every description...[creating] machines highly embellished with gold leaf work, beveled mirrors, handcarved figures and flowers, and panels of finest oil paintings.” Frank Caretta, the last of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company’s carvers, made one horse a week for many years. As he demonstrated the process of carving a horse at the 1927 convention of the National Association of Amusement Parks, it is likely that his master craftsmanship is represented on the Paragon Carousel.
Paragon Park was closed in 1985 and, fortunately for us all, three Hull businessmen, Paul Townsend, G. Daniel Prigmore, and Daniel Levin, bought the carousel at auction and moved it from its original location within the park to the grassy plot adjacent to the Clock Tower building upon which it stands today. In the decade between 1985 and 1995, the partners invested nearly $10,000 in maintenance and restoration but by 1995 it became evident that the carousel could not be run profitably as a private business.
News that the Paragon Carousel would be sold galvanized the local community. Led by Hull resident Judith Van Hamm, a non-profit group called Friends of the Paragon Carousel, Inc. was formed. This organization secured funds from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts through a SURF Grant. Additional funds came from a loan from the Hull Redevelopment Authority, a bank loan with the carousel as collateral, another loan backed by ten individual guarantors, and public donations from more than 4,000 people from eight communities in Massachusetts, as well as 26 other states. The Friends of the Paragon Carousel, Inc. was able to secure enough funds–$1.1 million–to keep the carousel at Nantasket Beach.
The Friends of the Paragon Carousel, Inc. continues to preserve and restore this local treasure. With over 100,000 visitors each year, the carousel does not suffer from loneliness or neglect but, like any paragon of beauty in its 80th year, continually needs extensive and loving care.
James Hardison is the local artist who maintains the carousel and who, in moments stolen from every-day carousel operations, is doing the restoration work. Through a capital campaign program called Adopt a Horse, several people have adopted horses by making donation of $10,000. This donation enables the horse of their choice to be completely restored.
Hardison carefully strips the layers of paint that have been applied to the horse over the past 80 years. As each color is uncovered, it is documented. Often, once the paint has been stripped, the basswood from which the horse has been carved must be repaired. After sanding and priming the stripped horse, Hardison applies Japan colors while restoring the original color scheme whenever possible. Relying on his artistic training, he shades and blends Japan colors to add depth and beauty to the restored horse. The finished project is truly a work of art.
As we celebrate the 80th birthday of the Paragon Carousel, it is a joy to remember and share all that it stands for. The carousel is a memorial to the romance of Nantasket’s Victorian past. More importantly, however, the festive beauty of the Paragon Carousel will always stand as a tribute to the community spirit that saved it.
There are as many stories as there have been visitors to the Paragon Carousel and it is lovely to imagine the spirits of the past looking on as new generations make fresh memories under its beautifully painted canopy. We wish the Paragon Carousel a joyous 80th birthday and pray that 80 years hence, it will continue to stand at Nantasket Beach, whispering our own stories into the ears of a new generation of listeners.
For information on special events, or to help support the Paragon Carousel, contact them at
The Paragon Carousel:
Description: PTC #85
Carousel Class: Classic Wood Carousel
Year Built: 1928
4 rows, Park, All Wood composition
Figures: 42 Jumping Horses, 24 Standing Horses, 2 chariots
Music: Band Organ: Wurl 146B w/153 Facade 1928
Comments: Revamped after 1963 fire
In April 1986, carousel & building (120 tons) moved on flatbed truck to Hull. Re-opened July1,86
History: Paragon Park, Nantasket Beach, MA, 1928 to 1986
Carousel Station, Hull, MA
Follow Rte 3 from Boston towards Cape Cod.
Take exit 14 (Rockland/Nantasket), left on Rte 228 to Nantasket Beach.
Carousel is on left across from beach
Open the last weekend in March until October 31. Hours of operation vary.
Mailing Address: Box 100, Hull, MA, 02045