A Personal History
Nunley’s Carousel opened as a carousel pavilion and restaurant in 1940 in the town of Baldwin, New York, my hometown. By the time I was a small child going there, it had expanded into outdoor child-scale amusement rides and a miniature golf course, and was already a famous and popular attraction on Long Island’s south shore. The carousel itself was made by the renowned company Stein and Goldstein for Golden City Park, in Canarsie, Brooklyn, in 1912. It came to Baldwin when Robert Moses’ Belt Parkway, planned to run through Canarsie’s waterfront area, sealed Golden City’s fate, and third generation amusement park impresario William Nunley bought the homeless carousel and moved it to Sunrise Highway, where he counted on the burgeoning suburban automobile culture to make his new park profitable. It worked.
Nunley’s has always been part of my life, as a child who adored the rides in the Wurlitzer organ infused air, and later in high school when I operated the rides for two summers. I attended the auction on the sad day when all of Nunley’s was physically separated, and rejoiced at the news that the carousel would stay together and be restored. Last year, I came upon an online photo of my favorite Nunley’s horse as it used to look in its old setting in Baldwin, and thought it the perfect source for a painting. When I posted the painting online, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring from Long Islanders who remembered the horse, carousel, and park with such fondness. It encouraged me to make more artworks of the brilliant carved horses from that miraculous little place.
My series came to the attention of the Baldwin Civic Association, who asked if I could produce a mural for their railroad station as part of a beautification effort. After civic board and MTA meetings, a subject, size, and place for the mural were decided. The mural was completed in early 2019, and installation at the train station scheduled for late April. The directors of the refurbished Nunley’s carousel offered the carousel pavilion at the Cradle of Aviation Museum for an event to exhibit my Nunley’s artwork series and to unveil the mural panel for the railroad station. The event was in March 2019 and was a culmination of these projects, attended by many in the Long Island community who remember Nunley’s from a beautiful and simpler time in their lives.
Long Island Railroad Mural
The 5 by 7 foot acrylic on panel mural for the Baldwin station on the Long Island Railroad.
I aimed for an image rich in detail and high dynamic impact. To be appreciated by zooming Sunrise Highway motorist and walking commuter alike.
The carousel has been beautifully restored where it operates now at the Cradle of Aviation Museum. For my mural project and painting series, however, I used as sources old photos of the carousel in its Baldwin setting, since I and many Long Islanders still remember it most vividly this way. There was something about south shore sea air, the easy interplay between inside and outside, and all the frenetic activity that gave the old place its particular feel.