SUMMIT CITY HISTORY NOTES


Robison Park carousel still going strong -- in Logansport


By RICHARD BATTIN

Even today, three-quarters of a century after its closing, people prowl the weeds and shrubbery north of town searching for vestiges of Robison Park, which operated there between 1896 and 1920.

They'd have better luck looking about 60 miles southwest of here in Logansport's Riverside Park.

There, in a specially built enclosure, stands a National Historic Landmark known as the Cass County Carousel.

For its first quarter-century, however, the merry-go-round was the Allen County Carousel, the pride and joy of Robison Park.

When the park closed in 1920, the carousel was purchased by a man named Frank Frantz who lived on Spy Run Avenue. He moved it to Logansport.

The whys of the purchase and move are apparently lost to history unless someone who knows the whole story steps forward.

Much of the equipment and concessions from Robison Park were moved to Trier Park, later named West Swinney Park. The carousel was not among them.

The carousel went through several private owners in Logansport, operating at two parks until it was purchased by the Jaycees there in 1972. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

In 1993 community funds were raised to fully restore the rare carousel. Since then, a special enclosure has been built to house the ride at Riverside Park, 1208 Riverside Drive, Logansport.

The new structure allows the merry-go-round to operate year-round. For information call 1-219-753-8725. Hours are 6 to 9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 4 to 9 p.m. Saturdays and 1 to 9 p.m. Sundays. Rides cost 50 cents.

The carousel was designed and built by Gustav Dentzel and his artisans in the latter part of the 19th century. All the animals are hand-carved.

Dentzel was a German immigrant who came to America and started the G.A. Dentzel Steam and Horsepower Carousel Company. During this time, carousels were considered a premier amusement ride.

While more than 7,000 carousels were created, today the number of historic machines has dwindled to approximately 250.

The Cass County Carousel is among the oldest. It is a stationary carousel, meaning the animals don't go up and down, and is one of only three known to be in existence today.

It features plenty of horses, but also giraffes, goats, deer, a lion and a tiger. Later carousels were usually all horses because amusement park operators observed that children picked the horses to ride first.

The roof that covered the carousel at Robison has been removed, since it is now indoors. Panels that at one time held mirrors and later cartoon characters now feature scenes from the history of Cass County.

To see a bit of Robison Park today, head southwest on Highway 24 into Logansport and follow the signs to the Cass County Carousel.

For Wayne's newest carousel
Though the old Robison Park carousel has been long gone from Fort Wayne, there is an old-fashioned carousel at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo at Franke

Park. Did you know?

* It's a one-of-a-kind Endangered Species Carousel, commissioned by the zoo from the Carousel Works of Mansfield, Ohio.

* It is a part of the Children's Zoo's Indonesian Rain Forest exhibit, which opened in 1994.

* It features hand-carved, hand-painted animals and birds on the endangered species list, including a Javan pea fowl, a tapir and a spotted leopard.

* It replaced another carousel that operated at the Children's Zoo for a while, a metal Theel machine made in Leavenworth, Kan.

--July 16, 1996

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