GGP Organ Restoration

I love old carousels, and the kids and I always enjoy visiting the one near us, at the Koret Children’s Quarter in Golden Gate Park. But whenever we ride it, I can’t help but notice the parts of a beautiful old organ that presumably used to provide its music, all just laying there unused in the middle.

A few years ago, back in our baby/toddler years, the carousel’s music just came from a boom box that sat on the floor against one wall near an electrical outlet. More recently, it has been upgraded to a stereo system with small speakers strung around the room. And while I do enjoy the Sinatra favorites that they typically play, I always look curiously and longingly at the original organ parts– those antique, mechanically-powered pipe, drum, and cymbal components just sitting there.

I’ve decided to spearhead an effort to restore this old music system– or at least find out what it would require.

Carrousel Operators Contacted

Jeff Suess at SF Rec and Parks oversees the licensing of Parks properties to private operators, including the GGP Carrousel. (This unusual spelling is the official one, I’ve learned.)

He gave me contact info for the people who run the carousel, as well as the engineer who restored it back in 1998, and who is based in the area (Hayward).

I emailed the carousel operators in order to run the idea past them of getting an estimate for how much fixing the organ would cost, and then if it’s reasonable, doing a local community fundraising / crowdfunding campaign to make it happen. They like the idea, and we hope to meet in a few weeks to discuss. Yay, fun!

Photo courtesy Ted Van Huisen, Flickr, per CC BY-NC 2.0 license

Basic info from SF Rec & Park

Photo courtesy Ted Van Huisen, Flickr, per CC BY-NC 2.0 license

Photo courtesy Ted Van Huisen, Flickr, per CC BY-NC 2.0 license

I spoke with Jeff Suess, the Property Manager at the San Francisco Department of Recreation and Parks. He’s the one who manages their contractor-run properties, including the carousel. He said that the organ had been restored 1997-1998, as part of a restoration of the entire carousel, and the engineer who did it had changed it from a card-based player system to a retrofitted paper-roll based system. This was before Jeff’s time at the department, but he heard that the organ had worked after that for about one year, but then it broke somehow, and it hasn’t played since.

I don’t want to reveal too much at this point, but he told me who has the contract to run the carousel, and also who had gotten the organ running back in 1998. They’re both in the area and seem reachable. He also agreed that it would be a win for all concerned if we found a way to raise the money to get the carousel organ running again. The 1998 restoration was funded by a few organizations, but I’m thinking that this time around, it should be some local crowdfunding.

He also told me that the GGP carousel, which was built in 1912 by the Herschell-Spillman Company, is almost identical to the one in Tilden Park, Berkeley, and that there are trade journals dedicated to the vintage carousel industry– so the expertise is out there.