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Flying Horse Carousel

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c. 1876, Charles W. Dare Company. 1879, set up in Watch Hill. End of Bay St.

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.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Flying Horse Carousel", [Westerly, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 406-406.

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