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Historic wooden carousel to have a home at Canalside

A 1924 wooden carousel stored for decades in an Ohio warehouse will have a Buffalo waterfront spot to call home in the near future.

“Finally, the search for a new home for the historic 1924 carousel, built right here in Western New York, is over,” Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said Friday during his State of the City speech.

Brown announced that the city will make room for it at Canalside as land for the carousel will be transferred to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., with the exact location to be announced later.

The carousel – 31 animals in all, along with painted scenery panels and rounding boards – has been in storage for 61 years, the last 28 years at Carousel Works in Mansfield, Ohio. Restoration is expected to take about 18 months.

“We are thrilled with Mayor Byron Brown’s announcement to allocate a city-owned parcel for our rare and historical carousel,” said Laurie Hauer-LaDuca, president of Buffalo Heritage Carousel. “It was the critical missing component needed in order to move forward in complementing Canalside with another family attraction and another piece of Buffalo’s story.”

Hauer-LaDuca expressed gratitude to the mayor and Brendan Mehaffy, who heads the city’s Office of Strategic Development, for their careful review of the project. She also thanked the community for the dozens of letters of support that came from all of the Common Council districts.

The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation in June 2015 agreed to pay $250,000 to buy the carousel. Then Assemblyman Sean Ryan in October announced a $600,000 state grant to restore it. But the release of the money depended on the city allowing the carousel at Canalside.

The Common Council has also backed a carousel location at Canalside.

Buffalo Heritage Carousel supporters see a carousel on the waterfront as a way to celebrate Western New York’s role as a leading carousel maker, thanks to the Herschell-Spillman Co. in North Tonawanda, and three company variations that followed.

The carousel will be solar powered to signify the importance of renewable energy and to shine a light on the region’s past, when the city of Niagara Falls was the first to transmit hydroelectricity long distance.

The idea for a solar-powered Herschell-Spillman carousel – Spillman Engineering Co. made the one coming to Canalside – was suggested in 2003 by Laura Briggs, a Cornell University professor hired as a consultant by the Erie County Environmental Management Council to explore the use of renewable energy in public places.

The idea took hold with a small, informal group that over time became Buffalo Heritage Carousel. The group hoped to see a carousel on the waterfront, in walking distance of the Metro Rail and bicycle paths.

“It’s so exciting to realize that the dream of a solar-powered carousel on the Buffalo waterfront will now become a reality,” said Joan Bozer, a former Erie County legislator who had pushed the idea for more than 10 years. “It’s a dream come true.”

The rare, park-style menagerie carousel will be just the 10th of the fancier carousels made by Herschell-Spillman to be in operation in the nation. The Explore & More Children’s Museum has also been approved at Canalside. Both projects were recommended in a cultural master plan issued for the waterfront agency in October 2011.