Berkshire Carousel taking shape as steel frame rises on Pittsfield lot

The newly raised roof sits atop the steel frame of the Berkshire Carousel on Friday at the corner of South Church and Center streets in Pittsfield.

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Building the Berkshire Carousel

Video | The Berkshire Carousel steel structure is in place on Center Street in Pittsfield.

PITTSFIELD — Conceived a decade ago, the Berkshire Carousel is finally taking shape, literally, as its home rises atop a donated foundation on a once-vacant lot.

Workers on Friday completed construction of the steel frame that will form the octagonal building at the corner of South Church and Center streets.

Assembly of the carousel is scheduled to begin on Feb. 29 and take three weeks — with the hand-crafted wooden horses installed last, according to carousel director Maria Caccaviello.

"We are planning a soft opening in April, but the [grand opening] is July 1," she said, referring to the start of the long Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Since city native Jim Shulman and his wife, Jackie, initiated the community project in 2005, hundreds of individuals and businesses have donated their time and money to the mostly volunteer-driven venture. The Shulmans, now residents of Galena, Ohio, bought the empty property next to the CVS Pharmacy for $400,000, the first of several key donations toward the estimated final cost pegged between $2.3 million and $2.6 million.

Two years ago, the former pavilion at the defunct Ponterril YMCA summer camp was given to Berkshire Carousel. It was recently refurbished for reuse by East Coast Refinishing and Surface Stripping in Pittsfield, with additional metal fabricating by Black Iron Welding.

The contribution that ensured the amusement ride would come to fruition came from Jim Maxymillian, according to Caccaviello.

"We couldn't afford to build it there if it wasn't for Jim," she said.

Maxymillian, founder/chairman of J. H. Maxymillian of Pittsfield provided — free of charge — more than $250,000 worth of labor and materials toward the installation of necessary utilities and the concrete foundation.

"I have five grandchildren and have been to the carousel in St. Augustine [Fla.]," he said in an Eagle interview. "I knew it would be a fun thing."

Maxymillian also wanted to help out, knowing the site's earthly composition would be difficult to build on and a main reason carousel organizers looked at sites in Lanesborough and Dalton, before returning to the original location.

"I felt the frustration of the group going from place to place to place and I knew [our company] had the wherewithal to solve the problem," he said.

Berkshire Carousel's latest business gift comes from L. P. Adams Co.; the Dalton lumber and building supply company is donating the materials for the cupola that will adorn carousel's home, Caccaviello said on Wednesday.

Yet the heart and soul of the carousel has been the individual monetary donations and the hundreds of volunteers who spent thousands of hours, carving, sanding and painting the 33 wooden horses, 14 rounding boards, two chariots and a donkey that will adorn the carousel.

They will be mounted on an 85-year-old carousel frame and mechanism that was refurbished in Ohio and delivered to the Berkshires two years ago. Volunteers also painted the hundreds of moving parts that will drive the carousel.

Organizers already have raised the $1 million it cost to build the carousel ride itself, which is now awaiting assembly. They also have in hand about $600,000 of the estimated $1.3 million to $1.6 million it will cost to complete 9,531-square-foot complex, which will be built in three phases.

Once the main structure housing the carousel is built, fundraising will continue on the second and third phases for additions to the carousel building to include a gift shop and expanded community space and concession that will open on a small scale once the merry-go-round is ready to ride.

"Berkshire Carousel is a testament to what we are all about," Caccaviello said. "People dedicated to working together to make it a place where all ages will come together feel joy and accomplishment for years to come."

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.