The B&B Carousell

The B&B was an icon along Surf Avenue.

There were over 25 wooden carousels at Coney Island.  It is amazing that the only one left is a carousel that few know little about and many neglect on their visits to Coney Island.  A decade ago, the Bishoff & Brienstein Carousell (the B&B for short) was one the only place on the island where one could saddle up onto an authentically carved horse and listen to the sounds of the organ as traffic speeds up and down Surf Avenue.  Today it is in storage, but hopefully will be coming out of retirement soon.  This carousel is spelled carousell because that was the way the frame’s builder, William F. Mangels, spelled it.

There are varying dates for this ride’s creation, although it ran for an undetermined amount of time in New Jersey before it was moved to Coney Island.  Most sources state that the ride arrived here in 1932.  It was at this time that the fourth (outer) row of horses was removed to accommodate the ride at its new location.  The ride has 36 jumpers, 14 standers and 2 chariots.  The beautiful Gebruder organ cranked out classic carousel tunes while the ride spun.  This ride is one that gives a hint of what Coney was like during the “Nickel Empire.”  The ride was bought by Mr. Bishoff and Mr. Brienstein in the thirties and sold to Mike Saltzstein and James McCullough in 1973.

This carousel was overlooked by many that visited Coney in the last 20 years.  New Yorkers are used to carousels because they are seemingly all over the city in many different parks.  Visitors came to Coney to ride the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel, but forgot that this work of art just across Surf Avenue, not far away.

The B & B Carousell is a Coney Island ride if there ever was one.  William F. Mangels (the inventor of the whip, tickler and many other coasters) had his shop on West Fifth Street and built the carousel’s frame.  The horses were carved by George Carmel who was responsible for the “Coney Island” school of carousel carving and art.  At an undetermined time a Illions horse replaced one of the Carmel ones (it sits in the back right corner to this day).  In his book Coney Island: A Postcard Journey to the City of Fire author Richard Snow said that Mangels advertised his “‘Galloping Horse Carousells,’ whose ‘system of decoration -the extensive use of beveled mirrors- is being universally approved’ and whose ‘patented overhead transmission with direct gear connection’ gave the horses ‘a beautiful gliding motion…unlike the old style, where the horses only have a slight rocking motion.'”

Tragedy struck the Coney community on July 4, 2001.  On that day owner/operator Mike Saltzstein passed away from a heart attack.  He cared for the carousel for over twenty-five years and, at the age of sixty, he died unexpectedly.  The article from the July 18, 2001 New York Times read, “He approached his duties professionally, dressed in the sort of khaki or olive-green attire that mechanics favor. He arrived as early as 10 a.m. each day to do repairs and cleaning, and he would crank up the merry-go- round for anybody who wanted a ride.  The B&B is special because it might be the last horses Carmel carved and serves as a testament to the dozens of carousels that used to dot the island.  McCullough sold the carousel to the city of New York in 2005 and currently there are plans for a new Steeplechase Plaza, with the B&B as the centerpiece.  We hope that the carousel will return soon and provide another anchor as Coney is reborn.