In the late 19th century, Charles Looff created some of the most exquisite carousels this country had ever seen.
His work graced legendary Coney Island and the lively Santa Monica Pier, and was scattered throughout the states in-between. Working in a shop out of Brooklyn, the German Looff designed intricate and distinctive menageries for amusement parks, his version of a scooped seat still standardly used today.
After dominating the amusement park scene on the east coast, Looff headed west to sunnier shores, settling in Long Beach, California. The Santa Monica pier was becoming a swiftly growing success with the city was pouring cash into the beachfront property to create an amusement park of grandeur, and Looff was just the man to give it to them. Given his own pier to work with, he and his two sons began to create his opus, “Pleasure Pier.”
Looff’s plans were to build a hippodrome, a Greek-style, open-air stadium of sorts that would house merry-go-rounds and circle swings instead of chariot races. The huge, oval-shaped structure was two stories high, and along with the aforementioned swings and carousel, housed a roller coaster, a Wurlitzer, a restaurant and a dance hall. Throughout the summer of 1916, the hippodrome delighted park-goers and people crowded into its doors in droves all season long.
After several years of success, Looff died unexpectedly in 1918, just as renovations and additions were being made to his pier. New additions were halted, however, the current attractions remained popular. Eventually, the city started mulling over the removal of the pier and the hippodrome to erect a resort, but before they were able to do so, a chain of vicious storms almost finished the job for them.in 1983, the Pier Restoration and Development Task Force was formed, and the hippodrome along with many other pier attractions were given historical landmark status and returned Looff’s creation to its former glory. It now sits happily amongst roller coasters, corn dog stands, the famous Pacific Park Ferris Wheel, and now houses a 1922 carousel made by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (not the original Looff carousel) on the sunny Santa Monica pier.
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