The Rocky Springs Carousel Association (RSCA) is an independent nonprofit organization, formed in 1999 to enter into a lease-purchase agreement to bring Lancaster’s historic carousel back home. They became the sole owners of the historic carousel, with a mission to get the carousel restored and operating once again. The Association lapsed into inactivity not long after plans to operate the carousel In Lancaster city’s Binn’s Park on North Queen street fell through (2005-06), and the 2007-08 recession inhibited fundraising. The organization’s IRS nonprofit status was maintained, however. The RSCA relaunched in late 2020.an answer to this item.
Yes, of course! We are seeking good sites in the community to show our beautiful animals. Exhibiting their animals is a common practice by carousel associations and has been one of our top objectives since our re-launch. Obtaining affordable insurance riders for the animals while they travel has been a challenge, so we need potential exhibit sites to fully insure them while they are on display. We also seek volunteers to help construct more stands for the animals. We exhibited our "Patriot" horse in August 2022 at the Long’s Park Summer Concert Series, and displayed our restored dapple grey horse at former Mayor Smithgall’s memorial service. Our goat was on display in the lobby of Lancaster Arts Hotel and our hunting dog in LNP’s lobby for many years, and is still gracing an office at LNP.
The RSCA Board was restarted by Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace and Gail Groves Scott, working with the city solicitor, and an attorney hired by Ms. Groves Scott and Stephen T. Hohenwarter.
Board nominations were solicited from a group of advocates and former board members who began meeting in 2019, initiated by Janet Spleen, a founding RSCA Director who continues to serve on our Board.
The Mayor appointed the following new Directors to serve on the RSCA Board: Gail Groves Scott, Allana Hunter, Janet Spleen, Noreene Sweeney, Beverly (Peggy) Steinman, Chuck Colson, Rick Heilig, Stephen Hohenwarter, and Mick Kauffman.
The RSCA’s governance had been closely connected to the mayor’s office, but the Board adopted new bylaws at their first meeting in December 2020, to allow the organization to move forward independently.
During the period when the Board was inactive, previous Board officers Jim Corrigan and Rob Ecklin kept the 501(c)3 alive and made sure the carousel animals and machine were safely stored.
Historic carousels are not only examples of folk art, but are also tourist attractions that contribute to the economic vitality of their communities. Children and the young at heart in this community should have the joy of experiencing the thrill of riding and listening to our carousel once again. The Stoner Carousel was a valued part of Lancaster’s history, and is an artistic and rare treasure. We date our carousel to 1924, but many of the animals were from an earlier version of the carousel that was operating in Lancaster in 1901. Some of the animals were carved in 1895. Generations of Lancaster County residents have fond memories of riding the carousel as children, or meeting dear friends or significant others while riding the carousel as adults.
2019 LNP Op-Ed by Eileen Gregg: Rocky Springs Carousel is our Hidden Treasure
A 2001 agreement with the city that accompanied a large donation by the Binn’s family to refurbish Lancaster Square (in the 100 block of North Queen Street) included a requirement to locate the Stoner Carousel on the site. The Carousel was envisioned as a tourist attraction and catalyst for the revitalization of Downtown Lancaster. Drawings and plans for a lighted glass building were commissioned and this building was included in a 2005 plan by an urban development consultant. However a developer wasn’t found to move the project forward. Mayor Charlie Smithgall, who had championed the city site for the carousel lost re-election in 2004, and Mayor Rick Gray’s administration subsequently decided that the city site wasn’t suitable. According to subsequent media reports, the Binn Family Foundation chose not to enforce their agreement with Lancaster city that the carousel would be located in Binn’s Park on North Queen Street.
The RSCA has all of the approximately 250 “memorial” bricks safely stored and inventoried. We plan to display the bricks as intended, when the carousel’s home is found.The RSCA is grateful for all the carousel fans who participated in our fundraisers! Your funds enabled us buy the Stoner Carousel, keep it safe, and do some initial restoration work.
The RSCA has an all-volunteer Board of Directors governing our activities, policies, finances, and mission, and a part-time Manager, Mike Berk, who started in January 2023. Our independent nonprofit is a registered 501(c)3 corporation, rather than a membership organization, however community volunteers can be appointed to chair or serve on our committees, or serve as consultants. Volunteers are vital to our success! Sign up on our volunteer page or email firstname.lastname@example.org to join our team!
Let’s talk lead: its presence may have some people concerned. Everything from older homes to amusement rides, antiques to old barns, all likely contain lead. Historically, lead, as well as arsenic and mercury, were common ingredients in paint formulation. As early as the 4th century BC, lead was added to paint. Why, you may ask. Well, artists and laborers found white lead added to the paint’s thickness, density, and opacity. It also accelerates drying times and creates a long-lasting finish. Lead, as well as arsenic and mercury, were common ingredients in paint formulation. People were not aware of the potential health and environmental dangers. Lead is dangerous when ingested or inhaled.
By the early 1900s, lead in paint was removed in Europe. But in the U.S., lead was not removed from commercial paints until 1978. Thus it is present in most houses built before that time. Many antiques, including a 100 year old grandfather clock, your great aunt’s dining room set and houses built before the 1970s contain lead paint. Is it of concern? Of course. How we address those concerns depends on the surface in question.
Lead mitigation, lead encapsulation (using a sealant) lead abatement and lead remediation are all terms you may hear regarding removing the dangers of lead contamination. There are different procedures for different surfaces and their use.
If the paint is not chipped or peeling, there is no danger in displaying a piece. Stripping wood with wire brush or sandpaper (think Victorian gingerbread on porches) can release dangerous lead particles which are easily inhaled. Peeling paint on woodwork or window sills in houses poses a particular risk for young children.
Carousel restoration experts know how to work with figures in original and/or older layers of park paint Rosa (Ragan) Patton spent decades working on carousels, including the Dentzel carousel at Glen Echo Park in Maryland. This particular “sister machine” is very much like our own Dentzel.
To recreate the color and fine details on carousels (mechanism and animals) involves carefully removing as many as 10 layers of paint. This is done in small postage stamp like “windows” to reveal the original layer of paint applied at the factory. It’s a very painstaking process working layer by layer removing paint and lacquer. The process includes documenting the original colors of each figure, and making tracings of delicate designs and pinstriping, etc.
Once the colors and patterns are documented, Rosa replicates the original paint and then seals or recoats the figures, using environmentally safe products. The old, leaded paint is still there, encapsulated by protective layers. The animals, decorative panels, rounding boards and even the platform of the carousel pose no danger to the public because the old lead paint is contained beneath the surface.
The process Rosa and most professional restorers employ does not involve complete removal of varnish and paint. Working on the Glen Echo carousel, she did clean her first horse right down to the original paint. That animal is only displayed, not ridden.
While the majority of carousel figures received many layers of what the industry calls “park paint,” some of it quite garish, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. All those layers served an important role: they preserved the original wood carvings, some of them well over 100 years old. Thus, once our carousel goes into operation, only the figures that have been restored and sealed will be available to ride. The others will be cordoned off until they too can be restored. The carousel animals and chariots will be safe in terms of lead exposure for the riders.
Professional restoration of the carousel to operating status is likely to cost in the area of $1 million dollars. Other historic carousels have spent between $3 and $6 million or more on a new building, depending on the features and size.
The $1.3 million raised from 1999-2001 enabled our nonprofit to buy the carousel and bring it back to Lancaster. The purchase price of the carousel was $1.3 million, and the funds were just enough to complete the sales agreement with owner Kim Figari on May 31st, 2001. There were many generous donations including the $500,000 from Loretta Stoner Ecklin to honor family members, as well as $300,000 from the Binn Family Foundation, connected to a larger donation to the city that built “Binn’s Park” adjacent to the anticipated carousel building site.
The total donations and grants fell short of the original $1.5 million goal to buy the carousel and fund the nonprofit’s operational costs. A bank line of credit was secured and some fundraising continued for a few years, although a much slower pace, according to RSCA’s records from the early 2000’s. Operational expenses included storage, insurance, marketing, fundraising, accounting, legal, architectural designs, and appraisals. Some grants were designated specifically for restoration of 14 of our animals. RSCA Board members and other community members also donated thousands of hours of time and in-kind professional services.
Fundraising ceased by 2005-6, when the city location fell through and the economic shock of a recession began. By 2008, the nonprofit had depleted its operating funds and the line of credit became a long-term loan. Original RSCA Board member Robert Ecklin generously paid storage, accounting, and interest costs from 2008-2020, and has continued to support RSCA efforts. Lancaster city insured the carousel under their umbrella policy, and provided a site for our storage trailers until Jan. 2021.
Founding members of our new board, Gail Groves Scott and Stephen T. Hohenwarter, funded the RSCA’s legal costs to relaunch in December 2020, and the first several years of operational expenses. Some storage costs, as well as accounting, administrative costs and other services are also donated in-kind.
The new RSCA Board’s first years, 2021-22, were rebuilding years for county tourism and our potential site partners, due to pandemic disruptions to their revenue and staffing. We worked on relocating some of our assets, obtaining new insurance, and researching the organization’s history, finances, and restoration options.
We announced a call for volunteers in conjunction with launching our web site in Spring 2022. We welcome those interested in supporting our mission to download copies of our most recent IRS 990 tax forms from our “Donate” web page. See our budget and annual reports posted here on our web site, and attend our Board of Director meetings for more information on our activities and finances.
In 2023, the RSCA Board published our new Prospectus and “Request for Expressions of Interest”, announcing our strategy to begin a fundraising campaign with a significant seed donation, in conjunction with a new site and partnering organizations.
We’re proud that board members have demonstrated their passion for our mission through generous donations to relaunch the RSCA, and keep our historic carousel safe, before they asked the public for funding! After the RSCA had been dormant for 15 years, our new board knew, strategically, that we could launch fundraising only after we announce a site and partnering organization(s). The original board also learned that fundraising required a location, when their site fell through and donations stalled in 2005-6. But rest assured, fundraising is part of our strategic plan, to coincide with our planned mid-late 2023 announcements of a new site and partnering organizations for our restoration and building campaign.
The current loan terms are for interest-only payments, which the RSCA Board has been making monthly. What was the origin of this loan? The RSCA in 2001 had raised just enough funds to cover the $1.3 million purchase price of the carousel, but some of the pledged funds were to be paid over time. They negotiated a $140k line of credit from Fulton Bank to seal the deal and support operational costs while they sought a developer. Lancaster Newspapers agreed to be the loan’s guarantor. Key grants received in the following years were designated specifically for restoration or preservation, for example grants funding restoration of 14 animals in 2005-6. The line of credit became a long-term loan, and Acting President Rob Ecklin paid interest payments on the loan for over a decade. The new board inherited the loan balance of ~$88,000 when they relaunched.
After our relaunch, the RSCA was asked to remove LNP as the guarantor, so we entered into protracted negotiations to revise the loan over 2 years. The bank declined to refinance with the carousel or its animals as collateral. The board continued to seek new loan terms, including offering to provide collateral from personal funds of two board officers, however, we had concerns about possible conflicts of interest.
With our plan in place to find a new site in 2023, the Board determined to launch a campaign to pay off the loan balance, rather refinancing. We’re excited to announce a matching gift offer for donations of $10,000 - $30,000 toward our loan principal, and welcome your contributions!
We’re proud to exceed best practices for transparency and accountability by the nonprofit rating sites Charity Navigator and Candid (Guidestar). This includes posting our Annual President’s Report (which includes a financial report), latest tax returns, and our budget on our web site, as well as offering access to the Board of Director’s meeting minutes or additional financial reports at our office. We invite the public to attend board meetings and serve on a committee as well! Please email us for more information or to schedule a visit.