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, Md., an early 20th-century structure considered an Art Nouveau masterpiece, 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. I was donating my time in the name of the Art league of Ocean City. Trimper’s thought that was pretty cool.”
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 Trimmers 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.
“The fairy didn’t have a head, and the cherubs were destroyed,” Schlick said.
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 a 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.”
Schlick hasn’t yet seen the restored ticket booth in person, but told Guilfoil, “Don’t clown it up. I like the Old World look with jewel tones. Don’t use oils on porous material, use acrylics. She was happy to hear that.”
Guilfoil worked through March in the unheated Trimper’s Rides building, with cold fingers but a determined attitude.
“The weather was mostly pretty crummy,” she said. “I went upstairs to the bathroom at least three times just to run my hands under the hot water. 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. One checked off my bucket list.”
Trimper’s Rides representatives said they’re happy the historic ticket booth has been cleaned, repainted and restored to its original glory.
“Miss Joanne did a wonderful job,” Isadora Richardson, Trimper’s operations manager, said. “The fairy has her shining glow back.”
Guilfoil said she was attracted to the Art Nouveau-style ticket booth lady and the carousel, even as an art student.
“I painted and sculpted one of the horses way back in the late ’60s, as an art major. I’ve been watching the ticket booth since 2014 and was sad when it deteriorated.”
In fall 2021, when she was recuperating from hip replacement, Guilfoil made a painting of her favorite carousel animal: the white horse with a blue sash and red rose.
Guilfoil continues to exhibit and teach at the Art League while painting out of her home in Selbyville.
“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.”
The Art Nouveau ticket booth can be visited at Trimper’s Rides on the Ocean City boardwalk near the inlet.