Aurora -- A famed piece of Cleveland history from yesteryear will make its return later this year.
The Euclid Beach Park grand carousel, which was built in 1910, operated until the amusement park closed in 1969. Now, the carousel that created so many fond memories is returning to Cleveland in a project spearheaded by the Euclid Beach Park Carousel Society, Euclid Beach Park Now and the Western Reserve Historical Society.
The grand carousel is being resurrected as part of a $2.2 million project funded by donations. It will be located at the Western Reserve Historical Society in University Circle, where a 32-foot tall glass pavilion sits at the corner of East Boulevard and East 108th Street.
"The goal was to restore the carousel to the way it was in 1910," said John Frato, president of Euclid Beach Now and former Board secretary of the carousel society. "The carousel is an important piece of Cleveland history."
Frato was the guest speaker March 19 at the Aurora Study Club's monthly meeting at the Church in Aurora. He was accompanied by Dudley Humphrey, great-grandson of the original Euclid Beach Park owners.
Frato said Humphrey has been instrumental in fundraising efforts for the carousel restoration project.
Frato said once the carousel "is brought back to life, the park's rich history can be shared and appreciated by future generations of Greater Clevelanders."
Groundbreaking on the pavilion was April 17, 2012. Frato estimated the carousel will be ready for public use in November 2014.
In its heyday, Euclid Beach Park was a legendary amusement park, Frato said.
In the late 1960s, the owners "said next year  would be their last year, but nobody really believed it would close," Frato said.
After the park shut its doors, the grand carousel and some of the other rides were purchased by an amusement park called Palace Playland in the Atlantic Ocean resort town of Old Orchard Beach, Maine.
FRATO SAID the Maine park closed after its owners declared bankruptcy in 1996.
In 1997, the carousel was purchased at auction in Cleveland for $715,000 -- a record price for a carousel at an auction, according to Frato. The buyer was the Trust for Public Land, which used temporary funding from the Ford Foundation, according to the Western Reserve Historical Society website. The plan was to restore the carousel and operate it at Cleveland's North Coast Harbor.
Fifty-four horses and two chariots, which were part of the purchase at the auction, were put in storage by the historical society.
The plan stalled after funding fell short, but it was revived in 2009 when the Euclid Beach Park Carousel Society presented a plan to Euclid Beach Park Now to locate the carousel in University Circle. The plans were OK'd by the Western Reserve Historical Society.
In 2011, Carousel Works in Mansfield, a carousel maker and restorer, signed on to restore the carousel horses. "They painted the horses and decorative components," Frato said. "We're really pleased to have them involved."
During the restoration project, it was discovered that four horses were missing -- there should have been 58 -- and four replacement horses were carved by Carousel Works.
The carousel mechanism is being rebuilt, costing about $500,000, also from donations.
Frato said there will be vintage photos of Cleveland from 1910-1930 on display.
"We'll have a lot of photos there to engage people," he said.
Bricks are available for sponsorship and memberships in the Euclid Beach Park Carousel Society are available. For more on the carousel project, go on the website to www.clevelandcarousel.org, or call 216-752-1505.
Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187
Twitter: Mike Lesko@MikeLesko_RPC