The famed Nunley’s Carousel, which graced Baldwin from 1940 to 1995, will, in a sense, return to the community soon. Artist Michael White has completed a mural of the historic ride that will be installed at the Baldwin Long Island Rail Road station this spring.
On March 9 at 7 p.m., the mural will be revealed to the public at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, where the carousel is today. People with special connections to the Nunley’s amusement park will speak at the event, including the family member of a former resident caretaker. “It’s going to be an absolutely great night,” said White, a Baldwin native who now lives in Garden City. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will hang the mural on Grand Avenue, on the north side of the station.
The mural was completed in White’s studio on a canvas. White has painted the horses of Nunley’s before, and remembers them well from riding the carousel as a child and the two summers that he spent operating the ride.
The painting focuses on the elements of the carousel — the texture of the poles, the panel paintings and the leather foot straps on the horses. “I wanted to have plenty of the particulars, and have it clear and important,” he said. “My hope is that it would evoke a memory of the place.”
Working from a photo of Nunley’s that he found on Facebook, White spent more than 100 hours on the mural. “Sometimes I’d put in 12-hour days on this,” he said.
Steve Greenfield, the Baldwin Civic Association’s vice president, is the only person who has seen the mural beside White. At the BCA’s Feb. 7 meeting, Greenfield said he was impressed with it.
Rita Cavanagh, chairwoman of the association’s Beautification Committee, said she didn’t want to see it until the March 9 unveiling. “I’m like a bride waiting for my wedding day,” she said, adding that Greenfield had sent her a photo of the mural. “I haven’t opened it, though.”
The civic association organized an online fundraiser to help cover the costs of the mural. As of Feb. 1, more than 70 people and businesses had donated a total of $3,020.
The Nunley’s amusement park was closed and the land was sold to Pep Boys, an automobile parts retail store, in 1995. The county purchased the carousel, and it was stored in a hangar at Mitchel Field. For years officials tried to bring it back to Baldwin, but those plans never came to fruition.
Billy Joel wrote a song dedicated to the ride called “Waltz #1 (Nunley’s Carousel),” and unsuccessfully tried to move it to a park in Oyster Bay, where he lives. An Ohio-based company began restoring the carousel in 2007, and it was opened on Museum Row in 2009.
Cavanagh said she hoped the mural would lift the spirits of some longtime residents. “A lot of people have seen revitalization fail multiple times here,” she said, “and longtime businesses come and go. Hopefully this will be a good thing for them and will make them happy.”
White, similarly, said he hoped to recreate the sense of escape from the world’s problems that Nunley’s once offered. “I want it to provide some sense of relief,” he said. “I want this to feel like a step back into that place, and also invoke that sense of the carousel . . . that visual relief.”