Maybe you’ve noticed that the once vibrant carousel which sits on the the Harper Motors lot on Highway 101 between Eureka and Arcata hasn’t been spinning for a while. Now covered by a red and yellow tarp, the merry-go-round that once brought joy to children has been out of operation for over two years.
The Harper Motors/Mid City Motor World owners have been trying to sell the carousel since they stopped operating it, and have even been discussing the possibility of donating it to the City of Eureka.
“It’s time to move on,” co-owner of Harper Motors Trevor Harper told the Outpost. “I’m just not in the amusement business.”
The 1947 Allan Herschell carousel was purchased by Trevor’s grandfather Harvey Harper in 1991 and has been on the lot ever since. Harper said that as much as his family loves the carousel, it was just no longer practical for them to maintain it. In addition to paying for insurance, which Harper says is about $15,000 annually, and maintenance costs, Harper said that it is difficult to find anyone who wants to operate it.
The Harper family has now had the vintage carousel for sale online for over two years and still haven’t been able to unload it. They’ve even knocked the price down from $125,000 to $95,000. But it turns out not a lot of people want to spend the money on antique carousels these days.
But Harper told the Outpost that he would be willing to donate the carousel, if the right party were interested. Harper would like to see the carousel somewhere where it gets use, and if it could help bring tourism to Humboldt County or Eureka that would be even better. So, last year Harper discussed the possibility of donating the carousel to the City of Eureka with Eureka Development Services Director Rob Holmlund.
Holmlund was intrigued by the suggestion, enough so that he decided to start researching possibilities for where the carousel could be placed in the city. At first, Holmlund told the Outpost, he kept his mission secret, because he “didn’t want people to get too excited.”
One option Holmlund came up with was to place the carousel in Clarke Plaza in Old Town. Although there are other places in Eureka where the carousel could fit, Holmlund chose Clarke Plaza because it is right across the street from the Eureka Visitors Center. One of the concerns about this project is finding someone to operate the carousel. Holmlund said that he discussed the possibility of the Visitor Center take charge of staffing the carousel and, much to his surprise, they were interested.
So Holmlund had the Clarke Plaza site evaluated to see just how feasible this idea actually was. The city even had an architect draw up a potential design and a cost estimate for the construction and installation. Holmlund said that staff determined in doing research that the carousel would need to be in some type of enclosure to help prevent vandalism and other damage. With the building, lighting and other modifications to the plaza, the estimate was around $493,000.
That’s a chunk of money that the city of Eureka doesn’t just have laying around. Even if the city was able to find the funding to install the carousel, Holmlund said that there is also the consideration of covering annual maintenance and insurance costs.
“It’s never going to make enough money to cover its own costs,” Holmlund said. “It would not be profitable.”
But Holmlund said that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t a good idea. The city does subsidize other projects that don’t generate a profit but are good for the Eureka in other ways. The Adorni Center, he said, is one example of this. The carousel could have other benefits such as beautification, tourism and just plain fun that could make it worth the costs.
But Holmlund says that though the project is a “cool idea,” it is certainly not a priority for the city and will not likely be happening any time soon. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen in the future. As directed by the Eureka City Council, Holmlund is presenting the carousel, along with some other tourism ideas, to the Eureka Lodging Alliance to see if it has any interest in helping to fund any of these fun projects. Holmlund said he is also planning to discuss the project with the Bayshore Mall’s new manager to see if the mall has any interest.
Holmlund said to expect an update on the carousel and several other ideas for beautification and driving tourism in Eureka sometime in the late summer.
In the meantime, the carousel is still available and Harper would love to see it go to a new home.
“It would be neat if the city wanted to take it,” he said. But he would be pretty happy to sell the dang thing too. If you’re interested in buying it (and you know that the kid in you wants you to do it) you can give Harper Motors a call. If you check out the pictures online, you’ll see that the carousel has been well maintained, and the horses are adorned with some pretty unique artwork.
Or maybe you have a brilliant idea for where the carousel could go in Eureka, Arcata or somewhere else in Humboldt County so that Harper will donate it. The center of the Arcata Plaza, where McKinley once stood? In place of the Old Town Gazebo? If you can come up with a plan to staff the thing, you could pitch your idea to your local government!
Of course, you know LoCO would love to see your genius ideas posted in the comments.