One of Mod Betty’s fave things in Santa Monica is the classic wooden carousel located at the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier. Just go under that iconic sign spanning the entrance to this seaside funspot and look for the historic building on the left – you can’t miss it.
The grand building (of which I do not have a photo, but you can see what it looks like here), known as the Looff Hippodrome (no, no hippopotumusses here, “hippos” as in the Greek for Horse – maybe knew that? I didn’t. Did you know that hippopotamus means “River Horse? I didn’t either, so obviously if you hang with Mod B you’ll learn a lil something new every day. Now where was I?? oh yes!)
ANYHOO – the carousel building was constructed in 1916 specifically for the original Looff designed carousel that was part of the amusement pier there. That carousel was sold in the late 1930s and replaced by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel that you see there today ( #62 for those who keep track of such things.)
As you can see there are some beautiful hand carved wooden horses on this carousel. According to the records on Carousels.org, there are 28 jumpers (the ones that go up and down) and 16 standing horses (those who just stand there looking grand.)
But if you peer closely, you may be surprised at what else you see…
like a TRICERATOPS?! What is that doing there?
Some internet sleuthing (Mod B’s fave kind) reveals that the triceratops, as well as a rabbit, a goat and others, are replacement animals created by Ed Roth. Along with building and maintain wooden facades for Disney and other clients, he repairs and restores the carousel. These “guest animals” fill in for where an older carousel horse once was, and out of respect to the original horses, these replacement animals will always be something different, never a horse. How nice!
So if you have some time to spend in Santa Monica and are looking to harken back to the fun had on this pier almost 100 years ago, take a ride…On A Carousel! (hit it, Hollies!)
Bonus “Because we’re so near Hollywood” bit – the carousel and the Hippodrome were featured in the 1973 movie The Sting – filling in for a Chicago locale. You can see some neat photos of what it looked like in the photo next to what it looks like now courtesy of these awesome shots from Tony Hoffarth (On Location Los Angeles) here, on Flickr.