Vilas Zoo Carousel Ceases Operation

1968 Madison, WI
The carousel, operated at Vilas Park from 1958 to 1968. Several efforts to restore it have failed. In 2004 city officials, in an effort to unburden the city of the unused carousel, transferred ownership, claiming it as a $200,000 "contribution" to the Madison Parks Foundation. The city Parks Department and the foundation then offered the carousel for sale "to any individual or organization that has the resources to restore it for the use and enjoyment of local residents." When it was removed from Vilas Park in the late 1960s, the city did not carefully place the pieces in safe storage. They dumped it out at Doc West's farm at the end of Sherman Avenue. Ray Jones, a carousel restorer, and Sid Boyum, a local artist, brought the carousel in pieces back to the city, where it stored the horses in a Franklin Field warehouse and the rest beneath Breese Stevens Field. By then someone had made off with 3 of the carousel's 36 horses. In 2001 the cost to restore it was estimated to be $500,000.

Originally built in the early 1900s, Gus Sweeney bought it, restored it, and sold it to the city, which opened the carousel in June 1958 in Vilas Park. Then in 1968 the carousel was dismantled to make room for the new children's wing at the Vilas Zoo.