30 animals from the Navy Pier Carousel were acquired and sold by Rebuilding Exchange, an environmentally conscious company that houses and sells reusable building materials donated to reduce construction waste, to fund its job training program.

The animals were part of the 1990s iteration of the carousel, which ran until 2019, and were designed to pay homage to the hand-painted creatures of the carousel’s heyday in the 1920s.

They had been stored after demolition until the Rebuilding Exchange was contacted.

A handful of carousel animals from the former Navy Pier Carousel on display at the Rebuilding Exchange Evanston location.  - Original credit: document

Within hours of the animals going on sale, all but eight that had been auctioned on eBay had been sold, according to Rebuilding Exchange social enterprise director Julian Pastin.

“The phone kept ringing,” he said. “The most common story we heard was that they had ridden the carousel as children and had pictures or memories of riding that specific animal.”

In total, the sale raised over $30,000 to be used for Rebuilding Exchange’s vocational training program designed to teach construction trades to those struggling to find steady employment for a variety of reasons. Pastin says the program will allow 90 graduates this year to join the workforce earning decent wages.

Rebuilding Exchange has two locations, one in Evanston on Hartrey Avenue and another in Chicago on West Webster Avenue, where donated materials from demolished homes, construction projects and the like are stored for resale. In addition to the carousel animals, the group had received ornately decorated marquee panels from the carousel which also proved to be popular items. The panels were decorated with scenes from all over Chicago, such as the city’s skyline.

A set of carousel marquee panels from the former Navy Pier carousel previously donated to the Rebuilding Exchange.  - Original credit: document

“There are so many interesting pieces of history that just don’t get the chance to have a second life or a third life. We’re always happy when we can help provide that,” Pastin said.

Beyond the training program, Rebuilding Evanston strives to limit the amount of construction and demolition waste that ends up in landfills. Pastin said the group managed to save 2,000 pounds of trash from ending up in landfills.

Donation forms can be completed on the group’s website. The main items accepted are building materials such as cabinets, doors, lighting and more, as well as unique pieces like the carousel and banners from the NFL Drafts held in Chicago.

“We’re actually very grateful when we get these (unique) items. Whether we’re the first stop to get them or we’re the last stop,” Pastin said. “Our overall thought process is that we just want to ensure that it will be reused.”

The best way to find out what’s new at the exchange, according to Pastin, is to follow them on social media where they post giveaways and more.