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A Restored Carousel Brings Magic to Brooklyn
And, indeed, they had. Originally hailing from Youngstown, Ohio, the 1922 carousel—it's listed on the National Register of Historic Places—had long since fallen into disrepair when Jane Walentas, a former art director for Estée Lauder, and her husband, a real estate developer, bought it at an auction in Ohio in 1984. "It was loaded with charm, and so elegant," says Walentas, who saw in the tired structure a star attraction for the neighborhood her husband was helping transform from rotting piers and abandoned warehouses into apartments, cafés, and playgrounds.
Walentas got to work refurbishing her treasure, mane by mane, bridle by gleaming bridle. She mended broken legs and used an X-Acto knife to scrape decades' worth of chipped paint off the horses, occasionally even hauling one home in her Jeep to work on late into the night. She enlisted local artists to help repaint the herd and chariots an earthy palette of forest browns, aubergine purples, sea-foam greens, and wine reds—all faithful re-creations of the carousel's original colors.
The carousel complete, the Walentas family donated their masterpiece to the city in 2011—27 years after the project began. "I was raised to finish things," Walentas says with a laugh. The horses have already attracted more than 200,000 visitors. When Walentas passes them, she says, "I think back to when the carousel was in my studio in hundreds of pieces, caked with grease and grime—and I feel proud that I saved it from extinction."