City Says Historic 1927 Carousel In St. Augustine May Be Dismantled

Sep 10, 2019

The future of a historic St. Augustine attraction is uncertain.

At Monday’s St. Augustine City Commission meeting, City Manager John Regan announced the owner/operator of the J & S Carousel at Davenport Park had passed away unexpectedly on Friday.

Regan said Jim Soules operated the carousel “for the love of it, not as a real business model,” adding, “his widow was planning to dismantle the carousel.“

The J & S Carousel was built in 1927, according to visitstaugustine.com.  City Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline said she would hate to see the city lose it.

“I feel like the carousel is a landmark within the community and it’s very historic,” said Kline.

She requested a report be put together with some city staff recommendations on possibly saving it.  

Regan agreed, saying, “I think we need to do it right now because time is of the essence,” saying his staff would look into potential options.

Regan followed up Tuesday with an email to WJCT News, writing, "The family is aware of options for their legacy to continue and are deeply appreciative of the city and all of the love and outpouring of support from the community." 

He said that the Soules family would get back to the city "at an appropriate time" and added, "it will be the family's decision regarding its future."

The carousel has a long history, including being purchased by a Ringling Brothers circus performer at one point for $25,000. At another point in its history the carousel was part of a children’s zoo in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The carousel was restored by Soules and Carl Theel in the 1990s, according to staugustine.com, at which point it was brought to Davenport Park in 1994.

It had been operating regularly from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., according to staugustine.com.

Davenport Park is located at the corner of West San Carlos Avenue and San Marco Avenue, which is also part of U.S. 1.

Davenport Park and the carousel are landmarks for visitors coming into Downtown St. Augustine from either U.S. 1 or A1A via the Vilano Causeway.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.