Chippewa Park carousel in 'much better condition' than most says restoration expert

For over a century, the beautiful wood horses on the Chippewa Park carousel in Thunder Bay, Ont. have been giving families and kids something to look forward to every summer.

Lisa Parr says many Parker carousels are disregarded and not well taken care of

An old photo of the Chippewa Park carousel shows how each horse was individually crafted to have its own unique look. (The Friends of Chippewa Park)
At a young age Lisa Parr developed a fascination with carousel horses. She's now a sought after specialist in the restoration of antique merry-go-rounds. We talk to her about bringing Thunder Bay's Chippewa Park carousel back to life. 10:15

For over a century, the beautifully-carved, wood horses at Chippewa Park in Thunder Bay, Ont., have been giving families and kids something to look forward to every summer. But after years of wear and tear, the C.W. Parker carousel is in need of some desperate rehabilitation.

"My favourite part of this carousel is that it has an energy and special carving in each of its horses and it promotes speed even though the carousel isn't running," said restoration specialist Lisa Parr.

Parr — who has over 30 years of experience restoring cultural carousels — has been invited to Thunder Bay by the Friends of Chippewa Park stewardship group to give her expert opinion and advice during efforts to fix up the historical ride.

Built sometime between 1918 and 1920, the carousel, commonly known as the Chippewa-merry-go-round, is in "much better condition," than similar models that Parr normally sees.

"Usually they are so disregarded because they are considered a simple horse that not many have survived," Parr explained. "Because of the work of the park helpers ... who have devoted their time to preserving these animals every winter ... they are able to be saved and that in itself is unusual."
This is one of the horses on the 102-year-old Chippewa Park carousel that has been stripped of its paint and primer, ready to be restored. (The Friends of Chippewa Park)

Parr continued to explain how each horse was individually crafted with "27 pieces of wood or more," by specific people in the Parker factory.

"Some people were designated to carve legs, some carved the bodies and then a master carver would carve the head and the neck," Parr explained.

Which is why each horse is individually different.
Carousel restoration specialist Lisa Parr says the condition of the horses on the carousel are much better than most of a similar vintage thanks to the dedication of park staff workers. (The Friends of Chippewa Park)

She said with a bit of elbow grease and lots of time and dedication, the merry-go-round will be able to be restored to a more stable condition than it is now.

Parr added that she's also writing a guide book with information on what each horse should look like after it's been restored, the kind of work it might need and possible problems that could arise during restoration.

An information session with Parr was scheduled at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery at 7 p.m on Nov. 7th.

With files from Lisa Laco