Vintage Herschell merry-go-round, music hall under construction at Volo Auto Museum
What’s spinning into fruition this summer at the Volo Auto Museum is sure to spur the excitement of carousel fans of all ages.
In late winter, the museum at 27582 Volo Village Road became home to a 1920s Allan Herschell Co. merry-go-round. Or, more accurately, it became home to the thousands of individual parts that — once each is painstakingly restored — will be reassembled as the central focus of a new music and carousel hall.
Already the building that will house the exhibit is under construction on the museum grounds. And freshly painted, polished and bejeweled horses and chariots are stacked side-by-side in an open-air storage area nearby. Visitors are encouraged to view the pieces and witness the re-assembly as it progresses.
“We’ve been wanting a full-size carousel for a while, but we’ve been waiting for the right one,” said Brian Grams, museum director. “We wanted an antique, something with some history and character.”
The Herschell was located in the possession of a private seller in California.
“Honestly, it’s worth more apart than together,” said Grams, noting that collectors are willing to pay $10,000 to $20,000 each for the horses. “There are 20 horses and two chariots. It will be 35 feet wide with an inner and outer row of horses.
“There are over 650 light bulbs,” he continued. “We have to re-machine the central support column and replace the main bearing at a cost of $35,000. Each carousel piece and mechanical part is being restored. It’s a monumental undertaking.”
Grams said he expects the merry-go-round and its accompanying Wurlitzer pipe organ will be ready for action this fall.
“The carousel has ornate mirrors, as well as brass poles that have to be stripped, polished and coated. The metal beams have been sand-blasted and repainted. All of the wiring must be completely redone,” he said. “Why do this? Why not? We’re all about nostalgia.”
Grams noted that the seller is an elderly widow who, along with her husband, made a living taking the merry-go-round from fair to fair back in the day. “She was very happy to know it was going to be restored and preserved rather than parted out,” he said. “We look forward to our visitors riding it this fall, and we think our guests this summer will enjoy seeing it come together.”
The Volo Auto Museum features roughly 400 classic, muscle and film-famous cars as well as vintage snowmobiles, scooters, antique arcade machines and other rarities. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Regular admission is $15.95 for adults, $13.95 for seniors, $12.95 for military personnel with I.D. (free for military in uniform), $8.95 for children ages 5 to 12 and free for children 4 and younger. For other information, call 815-385-3644, visit volocars.com or find Volo Auto Museum on Facebook.
Photos by Cynthia Wolf
carousel.1 or carousel2: Volo Auto Museum Director Brian Grams talks about the detailed restoration process ongoing to bring a 1920s Herschell carousel back to its full, functional glory. Museum crews are constructing a new building in which to house the carousel as well as related artifacts and music machines.