Ah! Nostalgic Carousel – Revived Resort, St. Joseph, Michigan

For Japanese, please click here (日本語はこちらをクリック)!

I wrote this post last summer – in Japanese.

Now I am translating it into English so that my non-Japanese friends will be able to read it.  Now that it’s spring (i.e. summer is coming soon), I am feeling an urge to do it.

If you have a chance to go to St. Joseph, Michigan, walk down the stairs or the slope on the Bluff in downtown St. Joseph. At the bottom of the Bluff, you will see the big dome (photo below). The Silver Beach carousel is inside it.

This is a view from the top of the Bluff. The Silver Beach carousel opened not long ago.  Long, long time ago, from the 1890s to 1970, St. Joseph was a big resort for Chicagoans.  There was an amusement park on Silver Beach with roller coasters, etc.  They added the carousel in 1910. The amusement park was closed in 1971 as the tourism in Silver Beach declined. Since then everything in the amusement park was sold or disposed of.  More than 30 years later, tourism is coming back to St. Joseph and Silver Beach, and a new a carousel was recently built.  An amusement park is back in Silver Beach – sort of.

(Map borrowed from one of Michigan travel magazines)

The carousel is within an easy walking distance from downtown St. Joseph.

(Map borrowed from one of Michigan travel magazines)

St. Joseph is one of towns in southwestern Michigan, close to Indiana. It has a few very good beaches, one of which is Silver Beach.

Go inside the dome. You will be impressed. It’s pretty spectacular.

I did not grow up in America, but it reminds me of my childhood. I myself rode a few carousels in my home country when I was a child.

A giraffe!

I would like to ride that myself.

There are horses, tigers, hippos, pandas – 48 animals in total and all of them were hand-carved and hand-painted by the artists!

They wanted to restore the original horses (from the 1920s), but that did not materialize. So they had the artists make new ones. Of 48 animals, 6 are white, jeweled horses which are identical to the original ones. Cool.

This is the original band organ. It was used in the Silver Beach amusement park. It played music for the carousel, carnival, etc. When the amusement park was closed in 1971, the organ was sold.  It was resold to a few different people, but in the end it came back here; it was donated by somebody. It still plays the same old music which played long time ago.

I see somebody did a beautiful job on restoration.

A mother making sure her kid holds on tight to the horse.

When the current grandmas’ generation were girls?  The girl’s clothes and hair style remind me of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.  Very cute.

Entrance at night.  Somehow it reminds me of summer festivals I went to when I was a kid.

Though I am from Asia, summer festivals are the same, whether in Asia or in America.

In the room next to the carousel is the exhibition of the old photos of Silver Beach and the things recovered from the Silver Beach amusement park.

Like a game machine in a night stall in a lively summer festival. Get closer to it, then the doll inside the cage will have a creepy and loud laugh.

One of the old photos on display. A family vacationing on Silver Beach.  The mother looks just like Olive in the cartoon, Popeye.  Was this in the 1920s?  or before?

People used to come to Michigan beaches from Chicago by ferry like this.

A pretty big ferry used to come in as far as to where the St. Joseph lighthouse is (the lighthouse must be the same one as what it is now).

Considering how shallow the water must be there, the ferry seems too big to me.  Was the water actually deeper than I thought, or does the ferry look bigger than it actually was?

A middle-age looking lady who just disembarked – looking a little tired. It must have been pretty hot in a long dress like that !  With a heavy-looking hat and tight neck.  And the man is wearing a suit and a bow tie!  Is this the late 19th century or the early 20th century?  I am not strong at the history of clothes. If you know it, please feel free to write a comment on this post. Thanks!

In good contrast is a group of young women looking full of energy and excited. Young people a hundred years ago were just like young people now – vivacious.

Silver Beach.  What’s that big thing in the middle of the water??

They had a very big slide.  They could slide right into the water.

What strikes me is that most of these people in the photos are now dead.

There was a train station very close to the Bluff (and close to Silver Beach).  Not only ferries but trains were the transporation people used to come here from Illinois, Indiana, and other areas.  All women are in long white dress. Laundry must have been a big job back then when there were no washing machines.  I can’t imagine how dirty their dresses must have got.

The ferry staying in the harbor

Somebody wrote on the photo in white, “1896”.

I love looking at old photos. They are fascinating.

When I see old photos, I imagine what their life was like and what dramas there might have been. And I think about people of my home country in the same era.

There is a website about the carousel.  If you are interested, voila.


If you are at work, MUTE your computer first.  As soon as the page opens, it will play very loud music – you will be very embarrassed!


About tukusigal

もう長いことミシガンに住んでいる日本人オバさんの、自分なり、それなりのミシガン湖地方見聞記でーす。I am a long-time resident of Michigan. I am here forever. A middle-age Japanese woman. I love Imari porcelain, so my profile photo is an Imari vase which I bought in Imari, Saga, Kyushu, Japan. When I retire (when...?), I reveal my photo - but by then I may be too wrinkled (lo).
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