Charles I. D. Looff Biography and Looff Carousel

Picture Of Charles I. D. Looff

Charles I. D. Looff (1852 - 1918) was Danish and American builder of carousels at the cross of two centuries. He is still famous as a master woodcarver and some of his carousels still work today. He also made whole amusements parks, roller coasters and Ferris wheels as well as Santa Monica Pier.

Charles I. D. Looff (real name Karl Jurgen Detlev Looff) was born on in Bramstedt, Duchy of Holstein, Denmark on May 24, 1852. Before he came to United States when he was 18 he learned woodworking. He arrived in New York City on August 14, 1870 and found a place to live on Leonard Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He started working a carver at a furniture factory and, part-time, as a ballroom dance instructor. As a ballroom dance instructor he met his future wife Anna Dolle and they married in 1874.

While working at the factory Charles would often take scraps of wood to his home which he carved into shape of carousel animals. He finished his first carousel in 1876 and placed it at Vandeveer's Bathing Pavilion at West Sixth Street and Surf Avenue – the first carousel on Coney Island. He then opened his factory at 30 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn where he continued making carousels and carving animals by himself. The next finished carousel he placed at Feltman's Beer Garden on Surf Avenue, Coney Island. The next after that he located at Young’s Million dollar Pier at Atlantic City, New Jersey and managed to sell it to Mr. Young himself. With idea to expand his business, Looff began hiring expert carvers. His children (of which he and his wife had six) also worked with him.

In 1886, Looff made a large carouse for Colonel George Boyden and his amusement park named Crescent Park in Riverside, Rhode Island. In 1895, Looff built larger and more elaborate carousel which he used as a ride and as a showpiece from which buyers could choose carousel animals for their carousels.

A beautiful carousel with 54 horses, which Looff made in 1909, he gave to his daughter as a wedding present. He then moved to California in 1910 to make and sell carousels on the West coast, leaving to his children management of the family properties in Rhode Island. He settled in Long Beach and built a factory on West Sixth Street. His next carousel was made at The Pike, an amusement area on Long Beach’s waterfront. Looff, with his son, Arthur, designed and built Looff's Santa Monica Pier in 1916. Pier had a “Hippodrome”, a hall that houses one of their carousels. After Charles died his son, Arthur, continued to make carousels and other amusement rides. Charles' other son, also Charles, purchased Crescent Park in 1920 and operated it until he died. In 1930, Looff's daughter Helen and her husband bought Loof's carousel from 1895 from Looff's widow's estate, restored it and it is still operating in its original location. During his life Looff made more than 45 carousels.