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Spinning again, Santa Monica's 62-year-old carousel.

A whirling mechanism of delight, Santa Monica's seaside carousel reopened this fall after months of restoration. The venerable beachfront institution, at the head of the municipal pier, is the first completed phase in ongoing pier restoration (set back by 1983's fierce storms).

The building has a newly repainted interior and new floors, windows, and lights. Choose your mount from among 44 revitalized steeds for a 4-minute spin, rising and falling to the strains from the 1924 Wurlitzer. Those who want more sedate seating can parade in ornate chariots. At 25 cents a ride, it's a great bargain for a family outing.

Created in 1916 by Charles I.D. Looff as part of his nationwide amusement empire, his Hippodrome was designed to be the most imposing structure on the beach: an enormous dome caps the two-story building, whose curious architecture combines Moorish and Byzantine influences. A succession of three merry-go-rounds has entertained families here; the current carousel was moved from Tennessee to Santa Monica in 1947. Fashioned by European-immigrant craftsmen at the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1922, it reflects Pennsylvania-Dutch decorative influences in such details as the stenciled patterns seen throughout the carousel.

On weekdays you might see a film or television production crew at work in the building. Frequently used as a movie set, it's most often recognized for its appearance in The Sting. Apartments in the corner towers, now used as offices, were once popular residences for writers and artists, including novelist William Saroyan and singer Joan Baez.

Farther down the pier, where the buildings still await restoration, you'll find game arcades, bumper car rides, and carnival food from hot dogs to abalone cocktail. If you plan to fish at the pier's end, bring your own bait; the old bait shop disappeared beneath the surf when 400 feet of the storm-batted pier collapsed last year.

Santa Monica Pier is at the foot of Colorado Avenue. Pier parking costs $4 for all day, $2 for 2 hours or less. The carousel is open 10 to 5 on weekends and holidays Semptember through May. Summer hours are 10 to 9 Tuesdays through Sundays.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Nov 1, 1984
Words:352
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