Stumptown Stumper

by: KATIE HARTLEY, Built nearly 100 years ago and brought to Oaks Amusement Park in 1923, the Noah’s Ark Carousel has survived three floods and use by generations of children.

Every Friday in Stumptown Stumper, the Portland Tribune offers a trivia question and answer to help you boost your Rose City IQ.

Q: Where in Portland can you find a Noah's ark built in 1922?

A: Where else but at Oaks Amusement Park, home to 'The Noah's Ark Carousel,' built in 1911 and brought to the park in 1923 - contrary to Stumper's incorrect date last week.

Why is it called a Noah's ark? 'It's got all different kinds of animals; a variety, as opposed to just horses or farm animals,' explains Emily MacKay, the park's promotions manager.

To be precise, the beloved ride - listed on the National Register of Historic Places - includes 13 jumping horses, 11 standing horses, 26 menagerie animals, two chariots and two tubs.

The roster of the menagerie animals includes a cat, deer, two dogs, a dragon, four frogs, two giraffes, a goat, kangaroo, lion, two ostriches, two pigs, two roosters, a stork, tiger, two zebras and two mules.

Some animals are bigger draws to kids than others, MacKay says. 'The dragon - they love that one,' she says. 'The pig is real popular. Also the frog. And, of course, the classic horses.'

It's not only kids who ride it. Every year, carousel enthusiasts from across the country gather at Oaks Park to get their thrill, MacKay says. Brides holding their receptions at the park's dance pavilion often use the colorful carousel as a backdrop, and at least two rock videos have been filmed there - local bands, 'not Aerosmith or anything,' MacKay says.

Historically, the piece is significant as one of the oldest remaining carousels built by the famous manufacturer, Herschell-Spillman.

A little-known fact: The carousel plays organ music recorded from the park's own skating rink.

It's also in excellent shape, considering its age, MacKay says. It is inspected every morning, and any problems that are found are fixed then. 'I don't remember it breaking down during the day' in the 11 years she's been there, MacKay says.

It's protected from vandalism by security guards, but the big worry is how it will hold up against natural disasters.

Luckily, the carousel has survived three floods during its lifetime - in 1948, 1964 and 1996. When city officials were laying sandbags along the Willamette River during the 1996 flood, Mary Beth Coffey, the park's media relations manager, recalls fearing for the carousel's well-being.

It held its own. 'This carousel has survived thousands of little kids for over 80 years,' Coffey said. 'I think it can stand just about anything.'

Next week's Stumper: What's the story behind the oddly phrased 'Oregon Portland Cement Co.,' a longtime inner-eastside business that's visible from the Hawthorne Bridge?

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