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Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ April 2022

Carousel to Move from Wheaton Regional Park

By Sharon Canavan

The delightful carousel operating in Wheaton Regional Park since 1983 will soon be moved to Ovid Hazen Wells Park in Clarksburg, Maryland.  This historic merry-go-round was made in about 1915 by a New-York-based manufacturer, the Herschell-Spillman company, which specialized in hand- carved wooden carousels.  It’s a beauty — there are 33 jumping horses, three zebras, and two chariots.

Although the full story of the carousel’s whereabouts over the last century is unknown, from 1967 to 1981 the carousel operated on the National Mall for the Smithsonian Institution.  Jim Wells, a nephew of Hallie and Ovid Wells, was the concessionaire, and he also ran Fairhill Farms Antiques, from which the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission acquired the carousel.

In 1981, in honor of her husband, Hallie Wells donated farmland to be used as Ovid Hazen Wells Park.  But the dedication of that park did not end the travels for this childrens’ ride.  In the interim, until Ovid Hazen Wells Park was developed sufficiently, the carousel operated on loan to Wheaton Regional Park where it has been enjoyed for many decades.

Hallie Wells’ gift stipulated that the carousel must ultimately be moved to Ovid Hazen Wells Recreational Park.  The Deed of Conveyance contained a covenant requiring relocation of the carousel once the Ovid Hazen Wells Park is “serving a sufficient number of park users to justify the placement of a carousel on the property.”

It took until 2014 for the Montgomery County Planning Board to approve the park’s Master Plan (see 2014 Ovid Hazen Wells Recreational Park Master Plan at montgomeryparks.org).  The Park Facility Plan for the active recreation area was approved by the Montgomery County Planning Board on 24 September 2015.  Although the plans were in place, the county held back on moving the carousel until Ovid Hazen Wells Park had enough “family destination amenities” in place to make it “as successful as it has been at the Wheaton Regional Park.”  Now that several recreation facilities, a playground, picnic shelters, trails, and a community farming operation are complete at Ovid Hazen Wells Park, the time has come for the merry-go-round to make its move.

The Capital Improvements Program for Montgomery County recommends funding for design and construction of a carousel roundhouse and to cover the cost of relocating the carousel from Wheaton Regional Park to Ovid Hazen Wells Park.  Once funding is approved by the Montgomery County Council, construction will begin in FY 2023 and be completed by 2025.

There are two expansion phases–the design and construction of Phase I includes the carousel roundhouse and carousel relocation, as well as adding a skate park, amphitheater, ticketing booth and restroom, parking, trails, stormwater management, utilities, additional playground equipment, and landscaping.  Even bigger plans are in the works for Phase II, which include an adventure playground, water play area, dog park, community green, additional picnic shelters, climbing/fitness tower, fitness equipment with running track, athletic field improvements, additional parking, maintenance building, trails, open meadows, and landscaping.

We will all miss the sight and sounds of children riding the carousel here in nearby Wheaton Regional Park, but it sure looks like Ovid Hazen Wells Park will be worth the drive once all of the park’s amenities are completed over the next few years.   ■


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