In the Victorian-era seaside village of Watch Hill in Westerly Rhode Island, the Flying Horse Carousel claims to be one of the nation’s oldest (circa 1867). It differs from others of similar vintage because the carved wooden steeds are suspended by chains from a turning framework attached to the ceiling. As the carousel picks up speed, the horses “fly” outward.
But don’t call it the oldest carousel, or you’ll get a fight from the other Flying Horses Carousel — the one in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. Built in 1876 and brought to the Vineyard from Coney Island in 1884, it’s a National Historic Landmark. In the glass sulfide eyes of it’s horses are clay figurines of animals like bears and eagles — eyes so rare and valuable that one owner painted them black so no one would steal them. The red-roofed building sits where it can catch ocean breezes.
Excerpt from “’You Can Go Around on Horseback,” Yankee Magazine, August 1993.