Jane’s Carousel Pavillion
Designed by Jean Nouvel, the pavilion is a 72’ x 72’ steel frame structure with fixed acrylic panels on the North and South facades and operable industrial-grade folding doors on the East and West. It incorporates four 70’ by 25’ recessed screens that will drop down after sunset, projecting illuminated mages of the carousel horses onto the pavilion’s transparent skin that will be visible from across the waterfront.
Imagine a magnificent children’s carousel encased in a stunning contemporary glass pavilion designed by one of the world’s leading architects. Such a site not only exists…it’s a must see! Jane’s Carousel located in Dumbo’s Brooklyn Bridge Park on the East River opened to the public Friday. Twenty-four years in the making, it has been lovingly restored to its original splendor by local artist and Dumbo resident, Jane Walentas, and is enclosed with new ‘jewel-box’ pavilion designed by French architect Jean Nouvel.
To say the Jane’s Carousel is a labor of love is an understatement. The New Jersey native, who first set eyes on a Merry-Go-Round as a child growing up in nearby Palisades Park, has had a lifelong fascination with these popular amusement park attractions. So much so, that when her husband David, a local developer, was in the throws of developing the Brooklyn Bridge Park, Jane thought one might make a nice centerpiece there. She searched for years before locating a suitable candidate at auction in Indiana in 1984, a fire-damaged carousel dating to 1922 known officially as P.T. C. No. 61, after the Philadelphia Toboggan Company that made it. Jane worked tirelessly on the carousel, scraping off layers of paint to reveal its exquisite carvings and, with her husband David, spent $15m on its restoration, $9m of which went to constructing a year round enclosure.
The combination of a colorful carved-wood carousel and a glass pavilion with a reflective stainless steel ceiling may seem a bit odd at first, but in a number of ways it makes perfect sense. The enclosure puts the carousel on display; it allows riders to have views of the bridges, DUMBO, and Manhattan across the East River; it opens itself up via large glass doors on two sides to announce itself as open and allow breezes through; and of course it shelters without competing with the look of the carousel. And while it may appear to be just a dumb box, Nouvel’s design is more nuanced than that monicker. It features butt-glazed glass on two sides, while the other two have the operable panels. In the middle of the ribbed stainless steel ceiling is a glass oculus that aligns with the carousel below; this opening brings light to the top of the carousel but also makes the space appear to extend upward.
Jane’s Carousel is now open in Brooklyn Bridge Park, in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn, where it is magically set on the East River, between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.
Jane’s Carousel is a completely restored historic Carousel made by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC #61) in 1922. It is a classic 3-row machine with 48 exquisitely carved horses, and 2 superb chariots. The wood carvings, often attributed to John Zalar and Frank Carretta, are among the finest of their kind. In addition, the scenery panels, rounding boards, crests, center pole and platform are all original to the Carousel. It was the first Carousel to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
CAROUSEL HISTORY AND RESTORATION:
Jane’s Carousel was created in 1922, the heyday of the American Carousel, by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (P.T.C.). Designated as P.T.C. No. 61, it was originally installed in Idora Park in Youngstown, Ohio, then a prosperous steel-making city. The Carousel has been fully restored back to it’s original elegance.
In 1983, as the designated developer of Empire Fulton Ferry State Park, David Walentas had commissioned a Master Plan for the park that called for an historic carousel to be installed. Jane and David Walentas purchased the Carousel at auction on October 21, 1984. Their bid for the entire Carousel prevented it from being sold off piecemeal.
When purchased, the Carousel was in poor condition. Jane Walentas began its restoration at her studio here in Dumbo in 1984. Her initial tasks included making necessary carpentry repairs and hand-scraping away 62 years of “Park Paint” with an X-acto knife to reveal the original 1922 carvings, color palette, and designs. The discoveries were carefully recorded with photographs, color matches, and detailed drawings that guided the repainting of the Carousel. The horses were rendered in faithful detail. The highly decorative carved trappings were newly painted and re-leafed. Missing embellishments such as faceted jewels, small beveled mirrors on the bridles, and delicate pinstriping were restored.
The Carousel’s rounding boards, scenery panels and structural pieces were also repainted, stenciled, and re-leafed. Blackened varnish was removed from original paintings to reveal their true colors. Dozens of old beveled mirrors were reglazed. Mechanical systems were updated with new gears, motor and an electronic controller. Totally rewired, the Carousel now dazzles with 1200 brilliant lights.
Jane’s Carousel was installed in the Jean Nouvel designed Pavilion, in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and opened to the public September 16, 2011.
Jane Walentas is an artist who lives in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn with her husband David, who was the original developer of the area. They have one grown son.
Jane, originally from Teaneck, NJ graduated from Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia with a BFA in Advertising Design and years later received a MFA in Printmaking from NYU. After graduating from college, she worked briefly for Testa Publicita, an advertising agency in Torino, Italy. Upon returning to the States, she moved to New York and worked as an Art Director for many years mostly in the Cosmetic Industry for Avon and Estee Lauder.
Jane and her husband also own and operate Two Trees Stables, an equestrian and polo facility in Bridgehampton, NY.
Jane Walentas said “My hope is that every child, whether from Brooklyn, across the river, or visiting from around the globe, will have the opportunity to experience this vintage Carousel in this extraordinary building set within this beautiful park. Imagine riding your favorite horse, with the Brooklyn Bridge towering overhead, as tug boats pass by. It doesn’t get much better!”
- The Carousel and the Nouvel commissioned Pavilion are a gift from the Walentas family to the people of the City of New York.
- Jane’s Carousel will be open in Spring and Summer from 11am – 7pm (April 6 – November 5) and closed Tuesdays. Fall and Winter hours are 11am – 6pm Thursday – Sunday (November 6 – April 5)
Project name: Jane’s Carousel Pavillion
Location: DUMBO section of The Brooklyn Bridge Park, East River, New York, United States
Type: Pavilion, Public Facilities, Public Space
Project Year: 2011
Completion Year: September 16, 2011
- 2012 Travel + Leisure Magazine Awards – Best Public Space
Visit Jane’s Carousel’s Website: here
Client / Owner / Developer: Jane Walentas, President & Founder
Architects: Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Paris, France
Text Description: © Courtesy of Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Jane’s Carousel, WAN
Images: © Billy Farrell Agency, Jane’s Carousel, Daniella Zalcman, The Wall Street Journal