EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Millions of people have ridden the Crescent Park Looff Carousel since it was first built in 1895.

But the 125-year-old landmark has been sitting still for the last three years, leaving Riverside residents wondering about its fate.

The carousel was crafted by master carver Charles Looff for the now-defunct Cresent Park, an amusement park that entertained millions of people from around the globe until its closure in 1979.

“At one point, East Providence, in this Riverside section, was like the Coney Island of the north,” East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva said.

When the park closed, several residents banded together and scrambled to save the carousel. Those residents would later found the Crescent Park Preservation Association.

In 1976, the carousel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. More than a decade after that, it would officially be declared a National Historic Landmark.

But the carousel wasn’t built to last.

“Normally … you set up a carousel for a couple of weeks, maybe a season, and then it would move on,” Carousel manager Tracy Johnson said.

Johnson said stationary carousels present their own preservation challenges, and the Crescent Park Carousel is no different.

“They built them like they always built them,” she said of stationary carousels. “Nobody would have thought we’d still be here today.”

Johnson said in 2019, they discovered the carousel was sinking into the sand it was built on. She said that, instead of just rotating in a circle, the carousel was also swaying back and forth.

“The carousel is just supposed to spin in a circle — we were going in a circle and in and out,” Johnson explained. “So, we had to really look at structural versus mechanical, and the decision was kind of made for us. The state said, ‘you need to fix your structural problems.'”

“This whole thing is supported on this one mast, and that mast bears all that weight,” DaSilva added. “Could this have been better funded over the years? Yes — a lot of the funding that goes into the maintenance [of the carousel] has come from the nonprofit.”

Luckily, the city came through with the funding. The East Providence City Council allocated more than $100,000 to help fund the repair and restoration of the carousel.

Construction is well underway on the landmark and is happening in two phases. The first phase involves fixing the carousel’s foundation, while the second phase focuses on stabilizing the ride’s mechanics.

In order to fix the structure, the city had to temporarily shutter the carousel.

Johnson said it’s been heartbreaking.

“I’ve watched little kids come, grow up and they’re finally able to reach the brass ring,” Johnson said.

Johnson said while the process has taken time, they want to make sure it’s done right for the generations of riders to come.

“There are people who are very upset that we’re still closed, but we’re trying to do this the right way,” Johnson said. “I want to know that my grandchildren and their grandchildren can still come ride the carousel.”

The city hopes to reopen the carousel in June or July, though it would only be able to operate at 30% capacity until the second phase of repairs is completed.

Meanwhile, the building next door that once housed the Blount Clam Shack has been sitting vacant since the restaurant closed in 2020.

Johnson said there were plans in the works to open a new restaurant there, but those have been halted while they focus on fixing the carousel.

Unlike last summer, Blount Clam Shack has opted to not operate a food truck out of the location this year.

Events are still being held this summer at the Crescent Park Carousel and the nearby Rose Larisa Memorial Park, including the popular “Movies in the Park” and a kickball tournament.