NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Carousel making is a talent only few possess and has brought joy to millions for generations.
In the early 1900s, carousel horses were mainly carved in Coney Island. Nowadays, the art of a bygone era is being kept alive in Westchester County.
As carousel creatures circle round and round, a smile almost always follows. That joy drives wood carver Bob Yorburg in his craft.
“It brings joy, and I think the idea of bringing history alive, for me, is incredibly exciting,” he told CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock.
With carousel music playing in the background and the smell of sawdust filling the air of his Yorktown Heights woodshop, Yorburg was hard at work chiseling away at a carousel organ top.
“This organ will be on a trailer, which is going to go from show to show,” he explained.
He carves carousel horses too, just as they did back in the heyday of wooden horses. Yorburg is one of only a half dozen people that carve carousel horses by hand.
Starting with rough wood, he sands it smooth, draws a hoof by hand and chisels out. From large to small, he’ll mold his equine, likely decorating it with acanthus — his signature. He’ll take one other liberty: his creatures always smile. They didn’t do that at the start of the 20th Century.
Not far away at Katonah Image, the Kiley brothers ogled one of their carousel creatures. It’s one of hundreds.
“250 to 300 — that I know of,” said Thomas Kiley.
Their collection includes a rabbit, donkey, even a cow. He said they’ve been collecting since their teens.
Most get purchased in rough shape. Then, they spend time refinishing them to their former glory.
“You can always look at the horseshoe on the bottom of it, and if there’s not a lot of paint and blocked up, it will say Parker Parker Leavenworth, Kansas, where it was made,” said Joseph.
Parkers were the only carousel horses not made in Coney Island back then. Now, they’re made and restored in Westchester County, with hopes the magical mares of a bygone era will continue to go round and round for generations to come.