The most distinctive element in Watch Hill's commercial center, sited toward one end of the street, where a long spit of land marks the westernmost reach of Rhode Island, is the Flying Horse Carousel. Its unprepossessing octagonal shelter, supported on cylindrical cobblestone columns and enclosed in a white picket fence, belies its historical interest. It is probably the oldest continually operating carousel in the country and the only operative example of a type which precedes the merry-go-round. The steeds do not prance on rods in the familiar churning movement. They swing out on cables. Originally, a real horse animated the fantasy, then waterpower; now it is powered by an electric motor. The twenty horses are simply carved, each from a single block of wood, in the stylized full gallop of rocking horses. Reportedly, a traveling carnival abandoned the carousel in 1879. It has been a Watch Hill delight and trademark ever since.
You are here
Flying Horse Carousel
If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.
SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.