A ride on Nunley’s Carousel once cost pennies, and “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” performed by Louis Armstrong, played as it spun.
These days, the famed Baldwin attraction has been moved from the former Nunley’s Amusement Park, on the Baldwin-Freeport border, to Museum Row in Garden City, where it occupies its own building, next to the Cradle of Aviation Museum. The ride now costs $2.
The carousel is magical, with glittering lights, music-box tunes and rows of wooden horses clad in flower crowns and rhinestones. It reminds many South Shore residents of simpler times, when they were children.
For Lynbrook native Christina Buxton, Nunley’s was an integral part of her childhood. “The carousel was my favorite part of Nunley’s,” Buxton said. “I had so many birthday parties there.”
On Tuesday, Buxton fastened a safety belt around her daughter Julianna’s waist and waited for the ride to start during a school field trip to the Cradle of Aviation Museum. The museum had invited schools from throughout the area to ride the carousel.
Julianna picked a horse that bobbed up and down. Just before the ride started, she took a deep breath and extended her hand to her friend Gianna Dambrosio, who sat on a steed next to her. Holding hands, the girls eagerly waited for their horses to start moving.
“People loved this carousel as kids,” said Gary Monti, the Cradle of Aviation’s director of operations. “It was an icon on Long Island. It’s still popular.”
Ten years have passed since the museum restored and reopened the carousel to the public. To commemorate the milestone, second-graders from Marion Street Elementary School in Lynbrook took turns riding the carousel. Since it opened on May 7, 2009, more than 300,000 riders have enjoyed it, according to museum officials.
The Stein and Goldstein Artistic Carousel Company in Bushwick, Brooklyn, built Nunley’s Carousel in 1912. Only four of the company’s carousels remain, including the famed Central Park Carousel.
The ride was originally installed at what was then the new 1912 building at Golden City Park on Canarsie’s waterfront. In 1940, it was moved to Nunley’s Amusement Park, on Sunrise Highway, between Freeport and Baldwin. There is now a Pep Boys on the site, next to Freeport High School.
The Lercari brothers ran the amusement park from 1940 to 1995, when they sold the property for commercial development. When the carousel was in jeopardy of being broken up and sold for parts, the county stepped in, purchased it and stashed it away for 11 years, according to Monti. In 2007, he said, the county began restoring it.
By 2009, the carousel was back to its old self, including the original organ music and ticket booth. Inside the Museum Row pavilion there is also a historical exhibit about the carousel.
“This is a central location in Nassau County, so everybody from [everywhere] can come here to the carousel,” Monti said. “There’s no reason this carousel can’t last another 107 years.”