220px-Charles I. D. Looff

Charles I. D. Looff

"Originator of the Coney Island-style Carrousel"


Birth Name: Karl Jurgen Detlev Looff

Born: May 24,1852 Bramstedt, Duchy of Holstein, Denmark

Died: July 1, 1918 (aged 66) Long Beach, California

Immigration: Arrived in New York City on August 14, 1870 at age 18

Married: Anna Dolle (1874)

Children: (all worked for the family business)

Anna (1875-1896) Died in a Trolley Accident in NYC
Helen (1877-1956)
Emma (1879-1938)
Charles (1881-1924)
William (1883-1945)
Arthur (1888-1970) Noteable rollercoaster designer 


Charles I.D. Loof, born Karl Jurgen Detley Looff, was born in Denmark in 1852. He immigrated to New York City at the age of 18 and moved into an apartment on Leonard Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and started work as a furniture carver. While working a side job as a ballroom dance instructor, Charles met and married Anna Dolle in 1874.                     

After working all day at the furniture factory, Charles would take scraps of wood home to his apartment and carve carousel animals out of them(famously designing all of his horses after George Washington's). He later arranged these original animals on a circular platform and created his first merry-go-round.  In 1876 he installed this amusement at Vandeveer's Bathing Pavillion at West 6th Street and Surf Ave, creating Coney Island's first carousel.            

As word of his carousel began to spread, he realized that he could make a living out of his hobby and opened a factory at 30 Bedford Avenue. The city would later take this property under immenint domain and forced Looff from it. This spurred his move to East Providence, Rhode Island.

Charles and Anne bore 6 children who all (except for the oldest, Anna, who died at the age of 21 in a trolley accident in NYC) would end up working for their father in the carousel business. In fact, his youngest son, Arthur, would become a well known and respected rollercoaster designer.

After moving to East Providence, Looff built an apartment on the property of the Crescent Park amusement park (it was actually attached to his workshop and carousel). He decided to use this ride as his showcase piece and slowly began to replace the animals with more intricate designs that would show off his skills.

In August of 1910, Looff decided to try building amusement parks in the west coast, and subsequently moved to Long Beach, California and built a factory on West Sixth Street. He purchased property at The Pike, an amusement area on Long Beach’s waterfront, and built a magnificent merry-go-round there. The family lived in an apartment above the ride. Son, Arthur, also operated Lite-a-line, a type of Fascination (game) at the Pike that is still in operation today at 2500 Long Beach Blvd Long Beach, CA 90806 it was subsequently moved in the early part of the 21st century it also houses a small but very detailed and vivid museum in honor of his carvings and ride technology but most specifically looff's CA Long Beach pike attraction. In 1943, the carousel was destroyed by fire and replaced with another Looff merry-go-round.

In 1916, Looff with his son, Arthur, designed and built Looff's Santa Monica Pier along the south-side of the city’s long, narrow, municipal pier. They constructed a large Byzantine-Moorish style "Hippodrome" building to house one of their ornate carousels, now known as the Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome. The Looff‘s also erected the Blue Streak Racer wooden roller coasteron their new pleasure pier, along with The Whip and the Aeroscope thrill ride.

In addition to Santa Monica and the Pike, Looff built and operated amusement parks and carousels at Ocean Park, Redondo BeachVenice BeachSanta Cruz as well as Griffith Park Los Angeles (still in operation) which coincidentally is the very spot that helped to serve as Walt Disney's inspiration to develop design and eventually build Walt Dinseyland and subsequent following theme parks to this day Walt Disneyland Resort still has in its displayed collection the very park bench that he sat on as he watched his daughters play on and day dreamed about a new type of park and totally emersive theme park experience. the and San Francisco, California. Other merry-go-rounds were located in Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Looff built merry-go-rounds and roller coasters for the Oklahoma and Texas State Fairs. Charles I. D. Looff died on July 1, 1918 in Long Beach, California. After his death, his son, Arthur, continued to manage the family's West coast operation, including building the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

The Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome and the Santa Cruz Looff Carousel and Roller Coaster were both designated National Historic Landmarks in 1987.

Interesting FactsEdit

  • Looff's first job in the USA was as a furniture carver at a factory in Brooklyn, NY.
    • At this time he also worked part-time as a ballroom dance instructor (where he met Anna)
  • While working at the furniture factory by day, Looff carved carousel animals at night as a hobby. 
  • Looff used a picture of George Washington astride his favorite horse as a model for his horse carvings
  • Since the administrations of his factories and several amusement parks  eventually became a full time job, it is doubtful Looff did much of his own carving after finishing the Riverfront Park Carrousel in 1909.
  • The family aspect of the business is one that is truly magical, here are a few bullets:
    • In 1909, Charles I. D. Looff built a beautiful carousel with 54 horses and gave it to his daughter, Emma, as a wedding present, when she married Louis Vogel. The ride was installed at Natatorium Park in Spokane, Washington.
    • Son Charles married Emma Simmons, the sister of Charles Simmons, who had married Helen Looff.
    • Helen, and her husband, Charles Simmons bought the Crescent Park carousel from Looff's widow's estate in 1930
    • Charles Looff's son, Charles, worked in the shop carving saddles and chariots for his father.
      • In 1920, young Charles purchased Crescent Park and operated it until his death.
      • He installed many of the popular rides of the time, including the Rivers of Venice, and the Shoot the Chutes.
      • He converted the huge exhibition hall into the Alhambra Ballroom by adding large roof trusses and removing the many columns, thereby opening the whole floor into one big space.
      • He also built an excursion boat, which he named the "Miss Looff" after his sister Anna, which cruised the waters of Narragansett Bay bringing customers from Providence and Newport, Rhode Island to Crescent Park.