Carousels have been a part of popular culture for more than a thousand years. The earliest known visual record of a carousel appears in a Byzantine bas relief that is nearly 1,500 years old. The first documented carousel in America began operating in New England around 1800.
The heyday of the Carousel in America was between 1880 and 1920. In those years, skilled craftsmen hand carved realistic and sometimes highly imaginative animals and decorative pieces for the Carousels.
The St. Louis Carousel, with its more than 60 hand carved horses and deer, was built in 1921 by the Dentzel Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the spring of 1929, Forest Park Highland on Oakland Avenue announced the installation of its new attraction, the $30,000 St. Louis Carousel. When the amusement park was destroyed by fire in 1963, the St. Louis Carousel escaped major damage. Its future, however, was uncertain.
In order to keep the Carousel in the St. Louis area, it was purchased by St. Louisan Howard C. Ohlendorf. In 1965, Mr. Ohlendorf donated the Carousel to the St. Louis County Department of Parks and Recreation and supervised its installation at Sylvan Springs County Park. The St. Louis Carousel was operated during the summer months at Sylvan Springs until 1979, when it became apparent that time and the elements were taking their toll.
Recognizing that the Carousel represented an important cultural artifact as well as a source of public amusement, the St. Louis County Historic Buildings Commission began to study ways to restore the Carousel and place it in a climate controlled facility to insure its preservation. The Carousel was opened in its present building at Faust Park on May 9, 1987. A not for profit corporation, the Faust Cultural Heritage Foundation, was formed to raise funds and other forms of support for the Carousel’s continual maintenance and restoration.