Restoring the Magic

James Hardison, the Paragon Carousel's Restoration Curator.Over time, weather and normal wear and tear take thier toll on all objects. Intricately carved and ornately decorated Carousel horses are no exception. Hitorically, when these proud animals began to show wear, the solution was to apply another coat of paint, usually without proper prepartion.

The the Paragon Carousel was purchased at auction in 1985 and moved to its present location, the new owners realized that a massive restoration was needed. Knowing of his master skills in woodworking, painting and gilding, they invited James Hardison to take on the project. Having restored art objects, religious statuary, and furniture in the past, James saw this project as a perfect match for his talents.

The motor house surroud has been fully restored to its original color scheme. During the stripping process, the original motifs were revealed. When Hardison removed the old countertop near the control station, faux marbling was revealed. These areas and the four columns have been recreated using the marbling technique.

The PTC #85 horses are being lovingly restored to this original color schemes as well. To date, more than half of the 66 horses of this Grand carousel have been restored. Using a heat gun, layer after layer of "park paint" are removed. Careful analysis of the first paint layer reveals the original color palette. The horses had natural colors such as dapple grey and chestnut. Saddles, blankets, and trappings were colorfully painted and gilded.

James Hardison work reveals the original colors for this horse.After the hand-carved basswood horses are completely stripped of paint and varnish, they are inspected and repairs are made as needed. Often a new hoof or leg needs to be repaired, rejoined, or a new one carved. The horse is then sanded down to wood, although in some instances, traces of original paint is left intact and blended into with the new. Several coats of white primer are then applied and sanded to ready them for the finish coats.

The painting techniques that Hardison uses are similar to those used in 1928. "Artists" Japan colors along with various formulas of glazing mediums are applied by hand with brushes (no airbrushes). Finally several coats of varnish are applied resulting in a deep rich finish.

The signature "lead" horse was restored in 2015. As if by magic, but in reality through a great deal of effort, James Hardison brings the horses of PTC #85 back to their orginal splendor, insuring that they will be enjoyed by many generations to come.

When you visit the Paragon Park Museum please take a few moments to stop by the Restoration Studio. Chances are that you will see Hardison working away on another Carousel horse.