Built between 1912 and 1914, the Golden Gate Park Carousel is one of only two surviving four-row carousels by Herschell-Spillman. (The other is in Tilden Park, Berkeley.) Before arriving in Golden Gate Park in 1940, it operated at Lincoln Park, Los Angeles, 1914-1931; Lotus Isle, Portland, 1931-1933; and the Golden Gate International Exposition (World's Fair) on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, 1939-1940.
After the carousel broke down in 1977, the San Francisco Art Commission offered to help fund the work of restoration. Its choice for the job was Ruby Newman, a muralist and theater set and costume designer who is today still active in the restoration field. Heading a team that included a boat restorer from Seattle and a woodcarver born in Austria, Newman mostly completed the restoration by 1984.
Instead of attempting to restore the carousel's original colors, Newman decided to employ her own color scheme, while aiming to accentuate the details of the carving. The result was a stunning and unique carousel mingling the talents and conceptions of the Herschell-Spillman carvers with the bold vision of a contemporary artist. Newman's coloring has been mostly maintained throughout a series of touch-up paintings -- though not entirely. (After I noticed something "wrong" about the lion's eyes, I was told they had recently been changed by an artist hired to make them less fierce.
The carousel is the third to operate at this location, its predecessors going back to 1888 and powered originally by steam. The present pavilion was built in the early 1890s. A 1922 Gebrueder band organ was installed during the carousel's restoration and is still operational -- but music is normally supplied by recordings because the organ is too loud! [nca]