ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Eldridge Park’s Carousel holds a special place in Elmira’s rich history.
It’s considered a jewel in the area and a hotbed of local history.
And for many, this is the soul of their childhood growing up in Elmira.
Eldridge Park and its carousel have been reborn.
The park’s land used to be swampland at one point.
In 1857, Dr. Edwin Eldridge a physician (born in 1813) moved to Elmira established a medical practice and continued to invest in Real Estate and other business ventures.
In 1860, he started construction of this park – which would be his most notable legacy.
The park served as a public park and picnic grove and steadily evolved into a fully functioning amusement park.
The Park closed in 1988.
On September 11, 2002, the city of Elmira hosted a candlelight vigil for the one year anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
A guest speaker at that event Robert Lyon – native Elmira and Forensic dentist – helped identify bodies in aftermath of attacks
He spoke of his fond memories of growing up with Eldridge park as a part of his life and the loss of community spirit and the lack of prioritizing family and community, which the 9-11 attacks brought into such sharp relief for many Americans.
That served as the catalyst for Dr. Lyon to form a group dedicated to restoring the Eldrige Park carousel.
Although all the carousel animals had been sold off in 1989 – the building and turntable still remained.
Eldrige Park Carousel Preservation society formed in 2003.
The outer row of animals was recreated from photos of the original Loof carousel that was in the park starting in 1924 – these animals were carved by Lawrence Pefferley who was a master carver of carousel horses.
Other carvers worked on additional animals. (Elmira’s own John Kolanach)
And one original horse brought back was named, “Sylvia.”
Additionally, the pavilion was rebuilt in a grand Victorian style
On May 27th 2006 a gala was held- and the carousel was brought back to life.
Since then – The Eldrige Park Carousel Preservation Society has moved mountains to slowly rebuild this park, brick by brick.
In 16 short years, the preservation society has been able to rebuild the city’s childhood and ensure that its legacy lives on.