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Go Ask Mom

Destination: Raleigh's Chavis Park

Posted April 18, 2013
Updated April 20, 2013

A new carousel house protects this historic carousel, which opened at the park in the 1930s, from the elements.

On Saturday, Raleigh will reopen the historic carousel that's been a centerpiece of Chavis Park for decades. Officials hope that more families from across the city will flock here as they do nearby Pullen Park.

Chavis Park, recently renamed John Chavis Memorial Park, has a lot going for it. There's a seasonal pool, an aging playground, community center, open space, a track and, now, the renovated historic carousel. But the park, just south of downtown Raleigh, has gone through some hard years.

In past posts, I've written about some of the issues.

Ridership on the carousel before the renovation was low compared to Pullen Park even before its upgrade and reopening in 2011. On a visit in 2010 with my older daughter, we saw broken beer bottles, overflowing garbage cans and a man walking across the park with a bottle of malt liquor. On another day, we hopped on the carousel about 30 minutes before it closed. We were the first ones to ride it all day. Check out my past posts about the park in the box above.

But Richard Costello, director of amusements for Raleigh parks, and other city leaders have high hopes for the park, positioned so close to downtown that you can see the skyline as you ride on the carousel. Chavis Park carousel Destination: Chavis Park, Raleigh

The reopening celebration will highlight the $1.8 million project that moved the carousel from the back of the park to the front entrance off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and also included utility and lighting work. The carousel now sits on a hill between the community center and seasonal pool.

The previous carousel house was open air with a wood chip floor that kicked up dust. The new space, similar in design to the carousel house at Pullen Park, is completely enclosed and climate controlled to protect the carousel and its collection of horses and chariots. (I love the set of mini-ponies, which are perfect for young kids who might be too little to ride a big horse on their own. I bench is right next to them for parents.).

"It's going to really ensure the carousel animals and the machine itself will be around forever," said Costello, who likes to call carousels "interactive museum pieces."

The carousel was built around 1916 and moved to Chavis Park in 1937. The park was originally built for the African American community, which, at the time, did not have full access to Pullen Park, according to the Raleigh Historic Development Commission's website.

The carousel had been a traveling ride, designed to be quickly assembled and disassembled so it could easily move from state fair to carnival. It's position at carnivals and fairs also explains why, in many ways, it's flashier and more ornate than the carousel at Pullen Park.

Horse at Chavis Park carousel Chavis Park carousel reopens to the public April 20

Light bulbs ring the rounding boards. The band organ is painted with a colorful scene. And a specialist discovered stenciling on the sweep arms, which are the long pieces above the horses, during the recent renovations.

The city made other improvements to the carousel as well, adding brass and cups to catch the grease that once ran down the poles and gathered in globs at the bottom where people sit.

There's also a new deck, replacing the original deck which had about an inch gap between each of the slats. Costello said young children sometimes got their feet stuck in the spaces and it was difficult for women wearing heels.

"It was a trip hazard," he said.

But what really makes the carousel pop is its light, airy new home. The old carousel house sat down in a valley under tall trees. It was dark.

"The colors of this carousel now really jump out at you," Costello said.

It's beautiful.

The grand reopening is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday. All rides on the carousel will be free on Saturday. The dedication is 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, and will be followed by music, activities and other activities.

In the last couple of years, the city has worked to bring more community events to the park. Costello said there are more plans for summer concerts and possibly a movie series in the fall.

And as the carousel reopens, the city and community are in the midst of the Chavis Park Community Conversation, a process that seeks ideas for other amenities and improvements at the park, among other goals.

There's more work to be done at Chavis.

The Chavis Park carousel will be open daily during the spring and summer season. Hours will be 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., weekdays; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sundays. Rides on the carousel are free on Saturdays. After that, it's $1 per person.

Go Ask Mom features places to take kids every Friday. Check our posts on parks and playgrounds and Triangle family destinations for more ideas.


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  • feistyredhead2001 Apr 22, 2013

    WOW... I work at both of these parks ( Chavis and Pullen ) and I have to say I am disgusted by reading these comments! I fell in love with Pullen because it is beautiful and well kept and YES I know it was not always like that and then I went to Chavis and fell in love with it there too. Here is the skinny... the truth weather you want to hear it or don't.... it does NOT matter if you want to go to Chavis or Pullen, if your black or white ( AND STOP PULLING THE RACE CARD PEOPLE... WE ARE SICK OF HEARING IT !!! ) IT IS UP TO YOU... THE COMMUNITY TO RUN OUT THE GARBAGE AND KEEP YOUR PARKS CLEAN AND SAFE FOR YOUR CHILDREN. If you visit these parks enough the rif raf wont, stop coming up with excuses as to why you wont go some where and find the courage to say we have had enough... because guess what... that " MONEY " you claim Raleigh has so much of... IS YOURS FROM YOUR TAXES.... Don't sit there and not take advantage of these beautiful places.. come to Chavis, bring your children, you A

  • my2cents-justsaying Apr 22, 2013

    Ummm...superman...they just built a new convention center a few years ago...

    And as for the park hardly being used, perhaps that was because it was outdated and the attractions were unsafe. Even if it is not used by people from outside the community, Im sure that the renovations will increase its local traffic...

  • superman Apr 22, 2013

    After reading the article and reading that the park is hardly used--it was a waste of money. But then Raleigh has millions to throw away on parks. Just wish they would build a new convention center to replace the old one that is losing money.

  • my2cents-justsaying Apr 22, 2013

    Before I even read the article, I knew that people would be up here arguing about this park being in the hood.

    Whether it is hood or not (in fact, that whole area is a lot better than 5 years ago, but that's neither here nor there) don't ALL people deserve a park they can play with their children at?

    If you think its too hood and scary to go to, THEN DON'T GO. But there are plenty of families in that area that will.

    It has nothing to do with jealousy, because there are parks and playgrounds all over the city. How can the renovation of a park become such a divisive issue? Enjoy the outside people, life is short. Play together, and live together happily!

  • oleguy Apr 22, 2013

    They are both Raleigh parks, Enjoy them,,, Blue and Green people not allowed

  • nanaandtrey Apr 20, 2013

    Don't get me wrong not all wp are racist/jealous but people like you Backwards are solids that I fluss down my toilet bowl.

  • nanaandtrey Apr 20, 2013

    I didn't vote for Jessie Jackson and he's black. I wouldn't vote for Herman Cain and he's black. We live in Raleigh not Chicago, so I don't care what goes on up there. Hitler committed more crimes than any BP you ever known and he is W. Timothy McVeigh singled handedly killed more people than any BP you know. So who should fear who as far as crimes.

  • backwards Apr 20, 2013 seems that you are confused about a lot of things. Look up where the majority of crime happens in any state and it's not hard to see who commits the majority of crimes. Look at chicago for instance. They lead just about every year in murders and shootings yet they have the strictest gun laws in the country. Look at the percentage of BP that voted for Obama and then tell me where real racism comes from. Plenty of BP stated that they only voted for him because he was black. If a WP said that there would be riots from the east to west coast. Racism for some reason only exists when something happens to a BP, why is that? There is a difference between being a realist and a racist. I agree that racism comes from jealousy and thats why I believe BP are always accusing WP of being racist. If people would work hard, stay in school, and focus on their futures then anything is possible.

  • nanaandtrey Apr 20, 2013

    How about not liking a particular group of people. Obama C.
    People like you are the reasons why 9/11 and marathon bombings occurs in this country.

  • nanaandtrey Apr 20, 2013

    Chavis has been around over 30+ years and it's not covered in graffiti stupid!