A Bit of Bertrand Island Comes Home

While everyone who spent time at Bertrand Island Park had their favorite rides, probably none was more beloved throughout the years than the magnificent carousel.  This ride was carved in the early 1920’s by the firm owned by Marcus C. Illions, one of several master carvers who established workshops in Coney Island after training under renowned carousel carver Charles Looff.  This particular carousel would be among Illions’ greatest.  Known as a Monarch II Supreme, it featured 48 hand-carved horses riding three abreast, two hand-carved lion chariots, and an ornate crown.  Illions and his staff only carved three such carousels and his son, Bernard, later recalled that his father referred to these as “the gem of gems, the finest I ever made.”

carousel_-_2The newly built carousel was installed under a roller coaster on Surf Avenue in Coney Island and was known as “Bob’s Round About.”  In 1937, Louis Accommando purchased the carousel in exchange for $7,200 and a smaller carousel.  He moved his new purchase to Bertrand Island Park, where it would remain a landmark for the next thirty-five years.  During this time its ownership remained within the same family, passing from Accommando, upon his death in 1960, to his nephew and niece.  They soon sold the ride to their younger brother, Joe DeLorenzo, who had been running it for them.  Joe and his wife Nelle lovingly operated the carousel at Bertrand Island for the next decade.  It is amazing how many children who grew up in the area in the 1950’s and 1960’s still clearly remember reaching for the brass ring at Bertrand Island.carousel_-_3

In 1972 the owners of a new amusement park being developed in Orlando, Florida by the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus began looking for a special carousel.  Circus World purchased the Illions carousel from Joe DeLorenzo for $68,000, considered an enormous price at the time.  A smaller, undistinguished carousel would replace the Illions and operate in the original carousel building at Bertrand Island until the park closed following the 1983 season.

Following its move, the Illions Supreme underwent a two-year restoration and was a focal point when the new park opened in 1974.  It graced Circus World for some ten years until the Florida park decided to move in another direction and put the ride up for sale.  At one point the carousel was set to return to New Jersey with a developer who planned to install it in Weehawken.  Unfortunately, the developer’s plans changed, and in 1988 the Illions Supreme was auctioned off, horse by horse.

In March 2009, the museum had the opportunity to acquire one of the original horses from this stunning carousel.  It was being sold on the internet with its lineage fully documented.  As this horse is an inside row jumper, it is smaller and not quite as ornate (or nearly as expensive) as the outer horses.  However, we fell in love with it on first sight.  After verifying its authenticity the trustees voted to purchase this unique piece of Lake Hopatcong’s past.  It is amazing how carousel horses are almost like real thoroughbreds in their documentation.  As explained to us by experts in the field, no two horses are the same.  Dolores Lynch, daughter of Joe Delorenzo and a very active member of the National Carousel Association, and others in the hobby confirmed that this horse spent its former life at Bertrand Island.  We were directed to page 31 of the Guernsey auction catalog for theSONY DSC Circus World carousel, where this horse can clearly be seen.  Since the Circus World auction of 1988, our horse had been in the collection of  Welba “W.P.” Wilcox, a noted Southern California collector and restorer of carousel animals.  In recent years, W.P. decided to start thinning out his collection and sold the horse to Len Luiso, a friend and fellow carousel restorer in Southern California.  Len’s house is graced with some wonderful restored carousel animals and several others await restoration in his garage workshop.  When Len decided to sell this horse last year, a poor economy meant we were able to purchase it for a very favorable price.  Our Officers and Board of Trustees then considered whether to take the horse as he was or have him restored to how he would have looked in younger days.  While not in bad shape, the horse still sported the paint from Circus World, with chips and other marks, and no longer had his original tail.  After some discussion, it was decided to let Len Luiso proceed with restoration.  The horse was fully stripped, damages were repaired and new paint applied in the authentic Illions style, resplendent with gold and aluminum leaf details.  After a cross country journey he is now the new star at the museum and we are most pleased to have a real part of Lake Hopatcong return home!

© Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum 2010

One Response

  1. Sandra Claman
    Sandra Claman at |

    I rode this Carousel in the 40’s and 50’s at Bertrands Island in Lake Hopatcong. Then I moved to Florida in 1956. I was able to take my Son to Circus World near Orlando in the 70’s and rode it again there. I was saddened to hear that it was broke up and sold separately. My next trip to NJ I will try and go to the Museum at Lake Hopatcong. It was a beautiful work of art.

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