Baldwinite Maureen Herman awakens each morning to a painting depicting her favorite horse from the historic Nunley’s Carousel. “Everyone had a favorite, and mine was the black one,” she said. “I just absolutely loved it, and I get to see it every day hanging on my bedroom wall.”
Like most people who grew up in Baldwin and the surrounding communities decades ago, Herman, 64, often reminisces about the fun times she had at Nunley’s Carousel and Amusement Park on Sunrise Highway — such as reaching for gold rings while on her favorite horse. “We would unfasten our seatbelts and try to lean over to reach the rings,” she said.
Many other Baldwinites might soon be able to join Herman in getting a daily look at images from the historic park, which closed in 1995. Artist and Baldwin native Michael White, 48, recently began a fundraising campaign so he can paint a mural of Nunley’s near the Long Island Rail Road station in downtown Baldwin.
The project is supported by the Baldwin Civic Association, which is accepting donations on its website, baldwincivic.org. As the Herald went to press, $1,300 had been raised. “There’s a lot of interest in the project,” Karen Montalbano, the civic association president, said.
White’s art career began in Baldwin — he took classes at the high school, and in 1987 did a painting on the cafeteria’s wall that is still there. “This town formed me as an artist,” he said. As a child, he went to Nunley’s often and worked there for two summers during high school. “I have a lot of vivid memories from there,” he said.
White, who now lives in Garden City, furthered his art education at Cornell University and has since made a living off his work, which he sells on his website, michaelwhitestudio.com. On that site, he offers two paintings of Nunley’s horses.
Where the painting will be located and how large it will be are yet to be determined. White said that he would like to paint a mural in at least one location, but is willing to do others if enough people donate to the project.
“I would love to do it on both sides of the [train] station,” he said.
The painting is to be done on panels in White’s studio and then installed on one of the walls at the station. The carousel and amusement park opened in 1940 and operated until 1995, when it was closed and the land was sold to Pep Boys, an automobile parts retail store. The county purchased the ride, 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 his hometown of Oyster Bay.
Restoration of the carousel began in 2007 by an Ohio-based company, and it was opened on Museum Row in 2009. For Herman, some of the ride’s charm was wiped away during the restoration. “They look too pristine,” she said of the horses. “They’re just not the same.”
Rita Cavanagh, the Baldwin civic’s Beautification Committee chairwoman, said she believes the mural would remind people of a simpler time. “They could just go to the carousel for a few hours and have fun,” she said. “I think people just like to look back on that time in their lives.” And for newer residents like her, Cavanagh said she hopes it would show Nunley’s significance in the community.
Herman said she would like to see the mural spark discussions about the carousel. “I’m hoping the parents will take their kids to” Museum Row, she said, “and tell their stories to their children. Perhaps they could drag out their old pictures, because I know everyone has some.”