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As early as 1892, music drifted along the Highlands and Highland Beach riverbanks on warm summer days infusing energy throughout the crowds of onlookers at the carousel. A Red Bank owner installed a merry-go-round when he leased the space under the Highland Beach Resort dome across from the Bathing Pavilion on the Shrewsbury River. A merry-go-round ride in nearby Red Bank cost five cents. During this Golden Age, when romanticism reigned supreme, you could hear music fill the air as you listened to the polka, mazurka, gallop, waltz or cotillion. These ornately carved animals with flying manes conjure up precious memories of magical childhood moments spent whirling through a myriad of lights while perched atop a fiery steed. Sophisticated carousels were being carved in England and Germany before they became popular in America during the age of the immigrant from 1870-1920. These European roots influenced the carvers who expressed their American life through their artistry.

A winter scene of the merry-go-round building under the dome at Highland Beach Resort c. 1908. Courtesy of Sandlass Family archive.

As the rider reached out to grab the brass ring at the end of a wooden arm, cries could be heard from the crowd surrounding the merry-go-round while the rider stretched precariously close, nearly falling off the horse. The ornately carved interior designs flourished during this Golden Age until the Great Depression put an end to this unique American art form. There was a poignant story of a Brooklyn carver, Samuel A. Robb famous for his cigar store Indians, who expanded his craft into carousel horse carving. He placed a single red American Beauty rose on some of his creations as a memorial to the loss of his young wife. These floral designs are a part of the long history of the merry-go-round.

In the 1950’s, there were 2 different merry-go-rounds in the Highlands (one on either side of the bridge). One was part of the Twin Lights Amusement Park. - Courtesy of Pat Richardson

The merry-go-round is called the Twin Lights Amusement Park on this c. 1950s ticket. Courtesy of Historical Society of Highlands.

The earliest rides had a hand-driven grinder who cranked the organ until tiring of the job. In 1893, a Red Bank Register article bore these headlines,

Stopped the Merry-go-Round”...On Sunday the merry-go-round at Highland Beach was stopped from running by Constable Daniel Clevenger. The constable also put a stop to some games going on there.”

We know at some point, William Sandlass started playing sacred music on Sundays.

The Highland Beach ORACLE reported in 1895, “The merry-go-round is in new hands this season and will only cater to quiet people and children. The best of care will be taken of the little ones as usual.”

Courtesy of Frank Smith Family.

The carousels in Highlands and Highland Beach disappeared over the years. Lost through the decades due to calamity or the changing times, we have only a photographic record left behind.

Courtesy of John King, "Stories from HIGHLANDS, NEW JERSEY, A Sea of Memories".

Learn more about Highlands and Highland Beach. Stories and artifacts of a bygone era await you in Gallery 1 at the Twin Lights Museum. Read the recent book, Sandy Hook’s LOST Highland Beach Resort, found in the museum store recounting a fanciful era in a town glittering with stars from Broadway and the early years of silent film.





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