Great news friends! Following six years of restoration planning and an intensive statewide site search, Restore Oregon’s board of directors has made a momentous decision, selecting the National Neon Sign Museum in The Dalles as the new steward of the beloved Jantzen Beach Carousel.
Restore Oregon - a statewide nonprofit preservation organization dedicated to saving Oregon’s historic places, and the National Neon Sign Museum - an entity dedicated to promoting an understanding and appreciation of illuminated advertising and signage and the unique historic, social, and cultural roles both have played in American history, jointly announced today that one of Oregon’s Most Endangered Places, the 1921 Jantzen Beach Carousel, will have a wonderful new home in The Dalles as part of the museum’s permanent collection.
Restore Oregon first placed the Jantzen Beach Carousel on its Most Endangered Places list in 2012, where it joined other historic properties across the state identified as being in imminent danger of loss due to economic challenges, development pressures, demolition, or neglect. Five years later, Restore Oregon accepted a donation of the carousel from its former owners, and has been hard at work ever since, developing and testing repair and repainting protocols to guide future restoration, while also seeking a new carousel home and steward.
The quest to find a worthy custodian for this cherished piece of Oregon’s cultural history has been a lengthy one, spanning nearly six years and one worldwide pandemic. Earlier this year, communities across Oregon submitted heartfelt proposals, each a testament to the carousel's significance in the hearts of Pacific Northwesterners. However, one proposal shone particularly brightly. The National Neon Sign Museum shared a vision for the carousel that included preservation and celebration of the carousel’s artistry and history, as well as amazing opportunities for education, tourism, and economic development in The Dalles downtown business core, and the Columbia River Gorge at large.
"The Jantzen Beach Carousel is an integral part of Oregon's cultural heritage, and we are delighted to place its guardianship in the capable hands of the National Neon Sign Museum," said Nicole Possert, Executive Director of Restore Oregon. "The National Neon Sign Museum's strong commitment to preserving and promoting the historical, social, and cultural relevance of vintage signage - and their previous preservation success in restoring the historic Elks Lodge which houses their collection - gives us every confidence that the carousel will thrive under their stewardship, allowing this beloved hand-carved gem to continue to inspire wonder and joy in Oregonians and visitors to Oregon for generations to come."
The National Neon Sign Museum provides visitors with a luminously immersive experience that celebrates the artistry and allure of neon signs and educates visitors about the significant role neon signs played in American history. Museum founders David and Kirsten Benko stand poised to welcome this historic attraction to their institution, which is currently home to more than 20,000 square feet of electrified signage, ephemera, and interactive displays, dating from the late 1800s through the 1960s.
“Once a dispersion point where entrepreneurs, innovators, and adventurers either settled down or departed from to embark upon a new life, The Dalles has long connected people from east to west. We have been delighted to help continue that spirit of connection, first with the creation of the National Neon Sign Museum, and now by welcoming the historic Jantzen Beach Carousel to our museum campus. Both neon signs and carousels are industrial works of art; and just as signs were meant to occupy prominent spots on Main Street where they would be visible to all, we strongly believe the carousel should enjoy a location of prominence. We cannot wait to restore this century-old masterpiece, and provide it with a dazzling new home in The Dalles' historic downtown business district. The Jantzen Beach Carousel is both an Oregon treasure and a national treasure, and we are eager to work with our community, and industry experts, to bring this one-of-a-kind treasure back to life as a major West Coast attraction,” said David Benko, founder and executive director of the National Neon Sign Museum.