Historical Background of Nantasket’s Paragon Carousel (PTC#85)
19th Century: Nantasket a World Class Summer Resort
During the nineteenth century, a number of resort areas were developed in and around Boston to provide summertime pleasure for its residents. In the late 1800s, Nantasket, or Hull, was known as the premier resort in New England, boasting the largest summer hotel in the nation. The Nantasket Beach area attracted many interesting summer visitors in its "Golden Age". President Grover Cleveland vacationed at one of the grand hotels, President Calvin Coolidge maintained a summer home here, Daniel Webster was said to have frequented a public house in 1920's, and Lizzie Borden's attorney was a member of the Hull Yacht Club.
Beginning in the summer of 1818, paddle steamboats would run from Boston to Nantasket Beach, carrying up to two thousand visitors per trip. Ranked as one of the oldest routes in the country, a fleet of vessels eventually grew to carry more than two million passengers to Hull in the summer of 1892. One hundred thousand people would arrive at Steamboat Wharf each day to the shores of Nantasket.
Along with the magnificent beach, the grand hotels and world-class restaurants, the amusements of Paragon could be found in other Massachusetts towns including Revere and Norumbega (Newton, on the site of the Newton Marriott Hotel). At one point, more than a dozen wooden carved carousels could be found in the Boston metropolitan area, close at hand by ferry or trolley.
1928: The Paragon Carousel
With the advent of the automobile, the Boston metropolitan resorts lost favor to Cape Cod and northern New England. One by one, the merry-go-rounds disappeared by fire or sale. After a major fire at Paragon Park in Hull, a new large, elaborate carousel, PTC #85, was installed in 1928, to replace the one destroyed by the blaze.
This was the 85th out of 89 hand-carved and painted carousels created by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC), renowned maker of hand-carved carousels in the Philadelphia, or realistic, style. (Toboggan meant roller coaster) PTC #85 included 66 horses and two rare Roman Chariots, each pulled by two horses, carved by the Dentzel Company, founder of the Philadelphia style, and purchased when the last of the Dentzels died. Its scalloped canopy was one of the most beautiful ever constructed for any carousel.
1984: The End of an Era on Nantasket Beach. Paragon Park is dismantled, sold at auction.
In 1984, the amusements of Paragon Park were dismantled and sold at auction, and the land was developed into condominiums. Local activists persuaded the land's developer to purchase the carousel. A year later, when the developer decided to sell it, three investors were found to rescue it at a dramatic auction, while the MDC agreed to provide space for it at the heart of Nantasket Beach, just a half-block from its original location. The three investors relocated the 120 ton carousel and its original building in April, 1986 (the move made Ripley’s “Believe It or Not”) to this new prominent location, reinstalled a Wurlitzer band organ, and began restoring the horses to their original paint colors. Twenty four of the horses have been fully restored to date. The video below follows the auction, the carousel's move and opening day at its new location in 1986.
Ten years later, when the business interests of the three investors changed, the carousel was again put on the market in August 1995 with a deadline of two months to raise $1.1 million before it would once more be committed to auction.
1996: Rescued from the Auction Block Again
A group of people came together, many of who5 had been working to revitalize Hull for years, to rescue the carousel from the auction block once more. They formed the non-profit organization, The Friends of the Paragon Carousel, Inc. When significant funds were raised by November 1, the owners agreed to give the Friends additional time to secure financing before signing with an auction house. Eventually, the Friends secured funding through loans, grants, and a reduction in price to be able to sign final papers for the carousel's purchase allowing it to open for the 1996 season, the last carousel in the Boston metropolitan area.
2015 and Beyond
Today, the antique Paragon Carousel is the last vestige of Paragon Park and is a lasting reminder of the "Golden Age" of Hull, when the town was teeming with thousands of visitors each day in the summer for decades.
The fundraising efforts for the Carousel continue, as the historic amusement is still encumbered with a substantial mortgage and ever increasing maintenance and operational expenses. Fundraising efforts are always underway to retire the debt, while other fundraising efforts including special events, the seeking of grants and corporate sponsorships, are raised to sustain a restoration fund for the Paragon Carousel.
While operating expenses are usually covered by the ticket price during the summer "riding" season, fundraising is a challenging and ongoing activity for the Board of Directors throughout the year.
To contribute to our efforts, please click here.
A 2015 benefit for the Paragon Carousel is promoted in this video produced by Hull Community Cable Television.