Located in the West Highland neighborhood of northwest Denver, Colorado, was a site known as Elitch Gardens. It was the family-owned Denver botanic gardens, amusement park, and theater. The Zoological Gardens opened May 1, 1890, on a farm purchased by John Elitch and Mary Elitch.
Before its opening, there was no zoo west of Chicago, so Elitch Gardens was a novel site for those looking for family fun and entertainment. In 1994, the park was moved to downtown Denver and was renamed Six Flags Elitch Gardens (once again simplified to Elitch Garden later).
At the park, the first roller coaster was a Toboggan Figure 8 and was opened in 1904. The Philadelphia Toboggan Company built the first carousel of the park, now called Kit Carson County Carousel and located in Burlington, Colorado.
Why Visit The Site Of the Denver, CO, Botanic Gardens?
With so many activities and events happening in the Denver area, you may be wondering why you should take the time to find the carousel and park.
While there is plenty of shopping and tourist attractions to find in the area, the stories behind the carousel will certainly entertain you and your family. The art and great craft of those who built the carousel and the theater will surely be of interest to everyone.
The Highlands’ Garden Village is the Elitch Theater, the last remaining part of the larger park. It was built in 1890 and was the host of various important stars, including Grace Kelly, Cybil Shepard, and Vincent Price.
In 1978 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and a special performance celebrating the 100th anniversary of the final performance was held in 1990.
Outside of the theater, the plaza is 15,000 square feet and is used as an outdoor performing assembly place. Trees and Victorian lamp posts line the area, and it is the perfect place for a wedding, film screening, or any other community-based event.
Historical Significance Of The Kit Carson County Carousel At The Elitch Gardens Amusement Park
The Elitch Gardens Carousel (known by many names, including Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel #6 and Kit Carson County Carousel) was built in 1905 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. It is the only surviving menagerie carousel built by the company.
In 1928, after many summers’ worth of use, it was replaced by a new carousel (PTC #51) by the same company. The original is now located in Burlington.
The wooden carousel itself consisted of 3 rows, 25 standing horses, four chariots, and other standing animals, including two donkeys, three camels, one dog, three deer, three giraffes, three goats, one hippocampus, one lion, one tiger, and three zebras on which guests can ride similarly to a parade.
It is the only one of its kind in America that retains its original paint on the scenery panels (nature theme) and animals as an antique carousel. As for music, the Kit Carson County Carousel features the 1909 Wurlitzer 155 “Monster” military band organ.
After spending six years in storage during the Depression, the carousel came back into use in 1937. There was some damage from wear and tear sustained to the carousel, so restoration began on the organ in 1976. It was designated a National Historic Site in 1978 and a National Historic Landmark in 1987.
Restoration continued on the animals, chariots, paintings, and other parts of the ride. A second restoration effort followed this in 1992 and further restored the lighting, machinery, moldings on the paintings, and the band organ in 1997.
During a particularly bad rainstorm in May 1981, three small horses and a donkey were stolen. Fortunately, they were recovered from a Kansas warehouse and returned to the carousel after a parade through Burlington in October of the same year.
Relive History With The Restored Carousel
If you plan to visit the Denver area, consider making the Elitch Gardens Carousel a featured stop during your vacation.
Whether you are a history buff or simply enjoy the beauty of illustrations and paintings and the fun of a carousel, get more information and details about these historic sites.