OCEAN CITY – For years, the winged fairy sat covered with black soot high above the lightbulb-centered flowers and chipped cherubs below her.
The old ticket booth at Trimper’s Rides in Ocean City, an Art Nouveau masterpiece from the early 20th century, had seen better days. And for years, Joanne Guilfoil, an active member and instructor at the Art League of Ocean City, had pestered the Trimper family to let her restore and repaint it.
“Since 2016, I have been asking the Trimper family once or twice a summer if I can please work on it … for free,” Guilfoil said. “I was always told politely no – liability and insurance. In February, I was introduced to Scott Savage, the president of the board. I told him I had insurance and still wanted to work on the ticket booth.”
Trimper’s gave her the go-ahead and paid for the paint. The artist’s time was a donation in the name of the Art League.
“That was the deal,” Guilfoil said. “I knew the Art League did community service projects, and this was going to be one of them.”
Once Guilfoil received the approval to start the project, she began by researching paint type and colors. Her reference source was Maria Schlick of West Ocean City, the artist responsible for painting and caring for the historic Herschell-Spillman carousel the Trimpers had ordered in 1912 that is still carrying children on the backs of its flying horses and exotic animals. Schlick and her brother, John Bilous, had already put the ticket booth “back together” once for the late Granville Trimper.
No one seems certain where the old Art Nouveau ticket booth originally came from, but Schlick believes it predates the 1912 carousel.
“When Trimper’s first opened, there was a theater there, and they sold tickets out of the booth,” Schlick said. “When I was a kid, there used to be string game inside that ticket booth.”
Guilfoil borrowed scaffolding from friend Kevin Martin, owner of Atlantic Auto Repair in Ocean View, who set it up for her, and got to work cleaning with rags and degreaser.
“I started the beginning of March, and I finished the end of March,” she said. “There were a few gouges, scratches, and many dinged areas to repair in the plaster. I sanded and then applied a gray primer. The only thing Maria told me was to keep the colors as close as possible to what she originally used. So she is the one who gets the credit for assigning color. I just matched what she did and tried to restore it as close as I could to her original work.”
Guilfoil worked through March in the unheated Trimper’s Rides building with cold fingers but a determined attitude.
“I went upstairs to the bathroom at least three times just to run my hands under the hot water,” she said. “I will admit there were a couple of times I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew. Then I told myself to shut up and get back to work. And in the end, I had a blast.”
Guilfoil was attracted to the Art Nouveau style ticket booth lady and the carousel, even as an art student. In fall 2021 when she was recuperating from hip replacement, Guilfoil made a painting of her favorite carousel animal: the white horse with blue sash and red rose.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to have restored the ticket booth, and I’m really happy that the Art League supports this project and will get the word out about this wonderful iconic piece of Art Nouveau sculpture.”