The Oldest Original Carousel in America

“Life is full of circles”

Nora Roberts

State 39: Maryland - May 14, 2018

Nate

We woke up at hotel in Glen Burnie, MD well rested, and ready for a brand new day. Yesterday, we visited the United States Naval Academy, and could not wait to see what adventures lie ahead! The first task of the day was to drive 20 miles South back to to Annapolis to tour the Maryland Statehouse. With 38 capitol tours behind us, I have seen statehouses built from sandstone, limestone, granite and marble among other materials. However, the Maryland Capitol building was the first statehouse I have encountered built with brick. I have always admired the strength, durability and appearance of brick, which only gets better with age!

Perched high above the brick building is another unique feature of the Maryland Capitol; the largest wooden rotunda in North America! Albeit hard to fathom, not a single nail was used during the construction of the dome! The rotunda is simply held together by wooden pegs reinforced by iron straps! Perched on top of the dome is a lightening rod personally built by our Founding Father Ben Franklin! Just to recap, we have a large wood dome built without nails, topped with a lighting rod from America’s Colonial Period, which has stood exposed to the elements for over 225 years! Here is the real kicker! The dome did not require restoration until 1996! Absolutely astonishing! Once upon a time, when America built something; we built it to last! All one has to do is look at the rotunda of the Maryland Statehouse as proof! I cannot wait to see what additional surprises the capitol has in store! Please see the pictures below!

We made our way up the grand external staircase, and entered the Maryland Statehouse. After being illegally searched by security, we were disappointed to discover guided tours were not being offered. We picked up a self-guided booklet, and set off to begin our exploration! Nothing is more frustrating than visiting a capitol which outgrows their space, erects another building, and converts the first statehouse into a museum. Democracy is a dynamic process; not a relic to put on display! (Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, you should probably re-read the previous sentence!) Since 1797, the Maryland Statehouse has been home to the state's legislature, and the office of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House, and President of the Senate. Thus, Maryland has the distinction of being the oldest state capitol in continuous legislative use. The Cross Country Couple gives Maryland two thumbs up for using their capitol building longer than all other states!

The Maryland Capitol building is the only statehouse to have once served as our nation's capitol. Before discussing this in greater detail, we will have to first venture to the Old Senate Chamber! Won’t you come along? It is down the main hallway fourth door on the left, and I will meet you there! Glad to see you made it! From November 26, 1783 to August 13, 1784, the Continental Congress met in the Old Senate Chamber of the Maryland Statehouse where two very historic events occurred shaping the future of our country! On September 3, 1783, Great Britain and the US signed the Treaty of Paris officially ending the American Revolutionary War, and established: the borders of America, fishing rights, prisoner exchange, and restoration of property among other points. Today, only one article of the Treaty of Paris remains in force:

“Britain acknowledges the United States to be free, sovereign, and independent states, and that the British Crown and all heirs and successors relinquish claims to the Government, property, and territorial rights of the same, and every part thereof”

In the Old Senate Chamber of the Maryland Statehouse, the brave leaders of our young nation ratified the Treaty of Paris establishing the United States of America as a sovereign nation! I am getting goosebumps standing in here! Please see the pictures below of one of our nation's most historic rooms.

In the pictures above, you may have noticed a large statue who looks a lot like George Washington. This brings me to the second historic event, which once occurred in the Old Senate Chamber. With the Treaty of Paris ratified and the Revolutionary War over, George Washington appeared here before Congress on December 23, 1783 to voluntarily relinquish command over the Continental Army, and returned to his home in Mount Vernon. Washington's resignation has been hailed as the greatest act of statesmanship in our nation's history, and established the precedence of civilian control of the military. Even to this day, the US President is not a member of the military, yet he possesses ultimate authority over all branches of the US Armed Forces. Washington's resignation in the Old Senate Chamber is the reason the President of the United States is also our Commander in Chief. Interestingly, Washington would once again regain control of the military six years later upon being elected as our nation's 1st president on April 30, 1789.

In the main hallway of the statehouse directly outside of the Old Senate Chamber was the most memorable part of my visit. On display was George Washington’s letter of resignation in his own handwriting, which he read from the day he returned control of the Continental Army back to Congress. Please see the pictures below.

Please see the pictures below of the Old House Chamber.

Regretfully, The Maryland legislature was not in session during our visit, but below are pictures of the New House and New Senate Chambers.

Unfortunately, the second floor of the Statehouse was not open to the public during our visit. Please see additional pictures below of our visit to the Maryland Capitol Building.

Lori

After departing the Maryland Statehouse, we crossed the Chesapeake Bay for a 118 mile drive Southeast to Ocean City for the Cross County Couple's “Historic Location” for Maryland: The Oldest Original Carousel in the US! A carousel or merry-go-round is a brightly lighted and ornately painted machine powered amusement park attraction. The riders sit upon wood, fiberglass or plastic animals attached to a large cylindrical rotating platform. While roller coasters are thrilling and the ferris wheel is romantic, no other amusement park ride possesses the nostalgic elegance of the carousel. To commemorate the first US patent for the modern carousel issued on July 25th, 1871, National Merry-Go-Round Day is celebrated across the country every July 25th! Make sure to mark your calendars!

Believed to have been constructed between 1876 and 1878, the Flying Horses Carousel in Martha’s Vineyard is the oldest operating merry-go-round in America. Due to it's historic designation, I ventured to Martha’s Vineyard a decade ago, and had a blast riding the famous Flying Horses Carousel. However, over the course of Flying Horse’s existence, the carousel has changed owners dozens of times meaning maintenance records and replacement parts cannot be readily verified. I now needed to find the oldest original carousel in America, and my search would take me Trimper’s Rides on the boardwalk of Ocean City, MD. As you can tell, I have been looking forward to this day for a very long time!

Established in 1893 by husband and wife Daniel and Margaret Trimper, Trimper’s Rides is the oldest family operated amusement park not just in America, but in the entire world! To expand his family’s amusement park empire, Daniel Trimper purchased a massive 50-foot diameter carousel in 1912 from the Herschell-Spillman Company in North Tonawanda, New York. The Trimper’s merry-go-round features 45 intricate wooden animals hand carved by German artists, three chariots, and a rocking chair which actually mechanically rocks! Trimper’s Rides is one of the few places grandchildren can ride the same rides their grandparents once rode as children.

While there are certainly older merry-go-rounds in existence, the carousel at Trimper’s Rides is the most original and oldest continually operational carousel in America. How do we know? The merry-go-round still sits in the exact spot where Daniel Trimper placed it in 1912, and the park has been owned by the same family for over a century! There have been a few changes to the carousel over years. Originally the merry-go-round operated on steam power, but the carousel has since been electrified. Back in 1912, a three-minute ride would put you back a nickel, and over a 100 years later, a ride cost $2.00. Ahhh the joys of inflation!!!

After parking Rosie, we made our way to the South end of the Ocean City Boardwalk to Trimper’s Rides, and was disappointed to discover the amusement park does not open until Memorial Day! I really wanted to ride on that merry-go-round, and was not about to give up that easy! Nate was ready to walk away, but I looked up the number to the amusement park online. Upon calling their main office, the lady on the phone graciously instructed me to go to the main gate of the amusement park where one of the worker's would escort us to the carousel! See Nate, it never hurts to ask!!! Off we went to the main gate of Trimper’s Rides, where we met with Carl who has worked for the Amusement Park for over 27 years. Not only was Carl knowledgeable about every nut and bolt on the carousel, his grandmother actually painted the animals on the ride!

The merry-go-round is impeccably maintained, and the artistry and detail is museum quality! You would never know this carousel has been in use for over a century! Carl offered to give us a ride on the carousel, which I was not expecting! I was just grateful to be able to get in to see it! Typically, merry-go-rounds only have horses, which can get boring after a few rides. The wide variety of animals available on this carousel made it challenging to select which creature to mount! How in the world is one supposed to choose from a: cat, dog, frog, rooster, mule, deer, goat, lion, rabbit, tiger, ostrich, pig, zebra, camel, deer, giraffe, dragon and ample horses? I saw Nate eyeing the giraffe as it is his favorite animal, and I was tempted to hop on the dragon! Seriously, when will I ever again have the opportunity to ride on the back of a dragon? For the first time in our lives, Nate and I opted to be traditional, and rode on horses beside one another! Taking a private ride on a century old antique carousel was one of the most romantic and memorable experiences on my cross country trip. Please see the pictures below of America’s oldest original carousel in continuous use!

Over the past 50 years, family owned amusement parks across the country have been going out of business at an alarming rate. Although increasing insurance premiums, rising property taxes, and family disagreements are common culprits, it simply comes down to economics in many cases. Building resorts and condominiums is more profitable than operating an amusement park. Furthermore, amusement parks situated on prime shoreline real estate such as Trimper’s Rides are at greatest risk. When the parks go out of business, the rides get sold, and antique carousels are worth a lot of money! Individual antique carousel horses can fetch prices as high as $100,000 each! Whenever an antique merry-go-round is sold for parts, our country loses an irreplaceable piece of our culture. Patronizing family owned Amusement Parks ensures there will always be a carousel spinning somewhere in America to entertain the young, and the young at heart. On July 25th, make sure to celebrate “National Merry-Go-Round Day” by taking a ride on a carousel in your community! The older the merry-go-round the better! Sometimes going around in circles is not necessarily a bad thing!

After departing Trimper’s Rides on the Ocean City Boardwalk, we drove 9 miles East to a Walmart in Berlin where we spent our last night in Maryland.

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