Amusements atop Seattle's Phinney Ridge, ca. 1926
The Phinney Ridge Ferris wheel once stood across Phinney Avenue from the entrance to Woodland Park.
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RECENTLY, WHILE retired University of Washington archivist Rich Berner and I looked at old photos in the Museum of History & Industry library, Rich pulled this week's subject from a box. Instantly I felt that happy "eureka!" rush. Here, I was confident, was the Phinney Ridge Ferris wheel described to me long ago by a former Ridge resident, who claimed that the big wheel stood across Phinney Avenue from the entrance to Woodland Park.
I wondered if she was remembering instead the kiddie Ferris wheel and merry-go-round that were both once in the park. How could I have missed a Ferris wheel on top of that familiar ridge? But I had.
In the spring and early summer of 1925, George and Lucy Vincent installed the New Carousselle, here generously signed above patriotic bunting at the front of their amusement center, and then the Aristocrat, which they described as "one of six giant Ferris wheels on the North American Continent." Both were, apparently, replacements for the smaller wheels they opened with in 1919 over considerable neighborhood resistance. George's father, Robert C. Vincent, age 76, died after a short illness early in 1920, not knowing if his top-of-the-ridge amusements would survive.
George kept the Vincent business in place until the night of Aug. 26, 1934, when it caught fire. Consumed was the Carousselle, the 62 hand-carved animals, the 1,000 electric lights and the reflecting mirrors. Gone were the skating rink, two lunch rooms and the Aristocrat. A few of the neighbors nearest to the ashes of the Carousselle's mighty Wurlitzer organ may have given thanks.
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