Pullen Park Reopens on Saturday with a Grand Opening Celebration

Pullen Park Reopens on Saturday with a Grand Opening Celebration

November, 18, 2011, by Jedidiah

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Carousel photo by Abby Nardo Photography

If you've driven down Ashe Avenue or Western Boulevard lately, you are sure to have noticed all of the improvements that have been going on at Pullen Park. From the great new building that houses the carousel house to a new welcome center, concessions building, restrooms and train station, the park has done a lot of work on existing structures and added a lot of new elements. 

Pullen Park, the first public park in North Carolina, was established in the late 1800s. For decades, it has been a great place to go for a picnic on a beautiful day and take the kids for a train ride or carousel whirl. But, as time went on, the lack of maintenance became very noticeable. After lots of of design development and masterplan proposals, the park closed in 2010 to get its new look. The renovations make the park a great new destination for everyone; families, couples and others just looking for a nice afternoon alone by the lake. We could do without that massive flag pole on the far side of the lake sporting the American flag, but otherwise, the park has a much fresher and open look and feel. 

Carousel house photos by Abby Nardo Photography

The new park's design was developed by HagerSmith Architects along with Little and Little Landscape Architects. One of Pullen's min attractions, has always been a 1911 Dentzel Carousel, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The new carousel house looks gorgeous and is topped by an equally fun and elegant weathervane by local metal sculptor Matt McConnell.

The weathervane's design has three aspects, the directionals, the pointer and the ornament. McConnell goal with the design was to recognize the "history of the carousel, its unique features and the craftsmanship of the animals, with the setting and the experience of visiting the park, as well as provide a marker that will attract those who are unaware of its significance to take a closer look, and also enjoy the experience of the ride."

Weathervane photos courtesy of McConnell Studios

The directionals of McConnell's design incorporate "aspects of Master Carver Salvatore Cernigliaro’s unique animals, including the Pig, Goat, Rabbit, and a rather fierce Cat with a fish in its mouth" which are "animals that he developed while working for Gustav Dentzel, that were not previously included in Dentzel’s carousels." The Pointer was designed to "acknowledge the surrounding park, following the path of a leaf floating on the wind and provide a graceful element created in the spirit of the subtle, gentle details that are evident in Salvatore’s and Dentzel’s animals." The final element, the Ornament was incorporated to "recognize the classic form of the carousel housed within, with a little of the modern repeated geometry of the pointer. This element will be balanced and set on a bearing, allowing the Ornament to spin in the wind, bringing the experience of riding the carousel to those viewing it from the outside."

Also, another great addition to the park will be Pullen Place, a new restaurant serving local sausages, deli and grilled sandwiches and a bunch of other locally inspired treats. For Saturday's opening, Pullen Place with have four satellite locations around the park open serving food. Check out the Pullen Place opening menu here.

One final feature that is sure to attract lots of children to the park is the C.P. Huntington miniature train, a one-third size, near replica of the famous locomotive of the same name. The train has been making rounds on the track over the past week and looks like a lot of fun for kids. The new train looks like a good rival to the one at the Natural Museum of Life and Science in Durham which is a huge hit for lots of kids and parents in the area. 

We look forward to spending many upcoming Fall days in Pullen's newly renovated grounds. Come Spring and Summer, the park will surely be a huge hit for downtowners as well as others traveling from outside of the downtown to the area. With all of the construction happening near the Hillsborough and Morgan roundabout, this area of downtown could gain a lot of new businesses and energy over the next few years, extended the reach of downtown and connecting it more with the NC State campus. 

Pullen Park Grand Opening Celebration
Join us on November 19th for the Grand Opening Celebration for your new Pullen Park!

November 19, 2011 10:00 am until 6:00 pm
Located at: 520 Ashe Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27606

Event Schedule
10:00 am Park & Amusement Rides Open
2:00 pm Pullen Park Dedication - Main Stage
3:00pm-6:00pm Entertainment and Musical Performances

Hours of Operation
After the Grand Opening Celebration, Pullen Park will be open daily from 10:00am - 6:00pm. Hours of operation are subject to change based upon the season.

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Arts, Other posts by Jedidiah.


Pullen ParkAbby Nardo PhotographyPullen PlaceMatt McConnell


  • Adrienne
    11/18 01:20 PM

    This looks wonderful, but why say that the new train is a rival for the one at the Museum of Life and Science? Aren’t we happy people can have fun in one-third size trains all over the triangle?

  • Park fan
    11/18 01:36 PM

    Here are more pictures from Pullen Park.

  • ApexDad
    11/18 01:45 PM

    What is the problem with the flagpole at Pullen? The writer seems to imply that it detracts from the park. Does it block some view?

  • americanpride
    11/18 02:04 PM

    Gosh, that awful symbol of Americanism- what were they thinking?  (hope you sense the sarcasm..)

  • jeff
    11/18 02:45 PM

    I am in agreement with the flag, I am so tired of jingoistic symbolism.  It’s overdone and looks out of place in a park.

  • ApexDad
    11/18 03:24 PM

    Jeff - you might want to reconsider your use of “jingoistic”.

    Jingoism is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as extreme patriotism in the form of aggressive foreign policy. In practice, it is a country’s advocation of the use of threats or actual force against other countries in order to safeguard what it perceives as its national interests.

    So, how does displaying the US flag in a park within a city in the US constitute “aggressive foreign policy”?

  • Jessica
    11/18 04:48 PM

    I am so excited about all of this. Go Raleigh! Thanks for covering.

  • smitty
    11/18 05:29 PM

    Thanks for warning us about the massive flagpole.  Parks are places for tiny trains and Andy Griffith statues, not large phallic symbols of American imperialism.  I certainly won’t be taking my children.

  • Bob
    11/19 11:07 PM

    My wife and I went to the opening.  Having moved here after construction started, I had no idea what was really in the park, but was delighted with what’s there now.  Another feather in the cap of a city I’ve come to like very much.

    The grounds are beautiful, the carousel is a gem and the food is tasty (and local).  As for the flag… I didn’t even notice it.  Must’ve walked right by, too, since we covered the entire place.

    Forgive me for being blunt, but if “American imperialism” is all you take away from a visit to Pullen Park, you’re really not getting it.  If you must see everything, even a playground, as political, perhaps consider taking your kids and using the experience to teach them something.  Whether that’s about imperialism or choo-choos is up to you, of course.

  • The Last Redneck in Raleigh
    11/20 02:35 PM

    After celebrating american capitalism by attending the Raleigh Holiday Parade, we proudly celebrated american imperialism at the engineering marvel of Pullen Park. We danced to a stay-at-home mom band, called the Mommies,  dressed in blue Forever Lazy pajamas. We then paid our respects to the late Jesse Helms.

    And we prayed ya’ll yankees would go home.

  • smitty
    11/21 11:30 AM

    Forgive me for being blunt Bob, but your sarcasm meter is in need of repair.

  • Phillo
    11/21 08:22 PM

    Flying the US flag on American soil is indicative of the same kind of imperialistic mindset that has resulted in the flying of the Canadian flag on Canadian soil, the Mexican flag on Mexican soil, the British flag on British soil… 
    These demonstrations of intra-national imperialism must be stopped. 
    Or, you could just get over it.  It’s just a flag.

    11/22 10:46 AM

    Yeah, next thing you know they will be flying the NC flag or even an NCSU flag since its next to campus.  The Horror.

  • Frodo
    12/21 01:19 PM

    In reference to the flag pole, it is original from the 1970’s renovations to Pullen and was not affected or modified by the Amusement Center construction project.

  • Frodo
    12/21 01:20 PM

    In reference to the flag pole, it is original from the 1970s renovations to Pullen and was not affected or modified by the Amusement Center construction project.

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