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Community should get behind the effort to place historic carousel at Canalside

The prospect of a carousel at Canalside is exciting enough to make kids and kids-at-heart jump for joy.

That is why efforts by Buffalo Heritage Carousel, a not-for-profit, to raise the $600,000 needed to restore and then show off the attraction should be wholeheartedly supported by the community.

As News staff reporter Mark Sommer has detailed in a couple of articles, Buffalo could become home to one of only 10 Herschell-Spillman park-style carousels, this one having been in storage for about 60 years.

What an opportunity to bring a piece of history to the burgeoning Canalside and, given that the carousel was created in North Tonawanda, return the creation to its roots.

The back story on the carousel is fascinating. It starts with a man named Domenick DeAngelis and his absolute adoration of the machine. He was an Italian immigrant who came to the United States as a teenager in 1905 and bought the carousel in 1924 with money saved from driving a taxi. He wanted to own a carnival outside Boston – eventually owning several, most prominently in Quincy, Mass. He died in 1952 and the land where the carnival was located got taken by eminent domain in 1954 to build a school.

To their credit and the benefit of Buffalo, DeAngelis’ family put the carousel into storage that year. In 1988, they moved it to Carousel Works in Mansfield, Ohio, which restores carousels. They wanted to keep it safe and held out hope for its future restoration, staving off requests from private collectors to sell it off in pieces.

Again, good for Buffalo.

Herschell-Spillman and three related companies made about 3,000 carousels in North Tonawanda. Fewer than 20 of them were the fancier park-style machines, as Sommer wrote.

A Cornell University professor by the name of Laura Briggs suggested in 2003 that a solar-powered Herschell-Spillman be located on Buffalo’s waterfront. Briggs had been hired as a consultant by the Erie County Environmental Management Council to look for ways to use renewable energy in public places. Moreover, a carousel and a children’s museum were both recommended for the waterfront in a cultural master plan issued in October 2011 by consultants hired by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.

An informal group turned into Buffalo Heritage Carousel, and the members have been diligently working to bring the dream to reality.

The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation offered to pay $250,000 for the group to buy the carousel and operate it with solar power. Buffalo Heritage Carousel has to raise $600,000 for restoration, and the foundation stipulated that it be located at Canalside – which it will. And with that wise decision, the foundation met the owner’s July 1 deadline with a $25,000 nonreturnable deposit to purchase the carousel.

The harbor corporation is in favor of locating the carousel at Canalside, and why wouldn’t it be? The location has been an incredible family draw. Adding in a carousel for young and old to enjoy is a natural. More money will need to be raised following the $600,000 restoration by Carousel Works. The machine will need to be housed in a structure that keeps it safe during winter months, and a staff will have to run it.

These are all logistical details.

The image of the faces of kids of all ages enjoying a spin on this historic carousel brought back home to its roots and fulfilling the dream of a hard-working Italian immigrant by the name of Domenick DeAngelis makes it worth every effort.