In what has to be considered a “stars aligning” scenario, Canalside will soon be home to a magnificent carousel hand-carved in North Tonawanda nearly a century ago.
Foremost was the enormous sacrifice by a working-class Massachusetts family in not giving up on their late patriarch’s dream. Coupled with a strong local volunteer effort, those wooden horses and other animals will once again carry riders after spending 60 years in storage.
An already bustling Canalside is adding an attraction with an intriguing history. The News’ Mark Sommer reported the backstory.
It is the story of Domenick De Angelis, a hardworking Italian immigrant whose amazing ability to transform ideas into reality is benefiting this community decades after his death.
In 1924 he bought a fancy, park-style menagerie carousel from one of the Herschell-Spillman companies in North Tonawanda.
He and his family ran the carousel for decades until closing it down in 1956, four years after De Angelis died.
No one would have blamed the family for taking one of the offers to purchase some part or the entire carousel. One bidder offered $150,000 for a single horse. But the dream embraced by De Angelis’ seven children, buoyed by the steely determination of matriarch Antoinette De Angelis, would not allow the carousel to be lost in a financial transaction.
They wanted the carousel to operate in a manner that honored Domenick De Angelis’ memory, all the more important following Antoinette’s death in 1989. Two of the siblings died in 2011 and the five remaining siblings needed to figure out what to do with their carousel.
Along came Laurie Hauer-LaDuca, a Clarence architect and carousel enthusiast who joined with Buffalo Heritage Carousel to embark upon a 2½-year effort to acquire the ride.
The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. agreed to host the carousel, and the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation offered to buy it once a Canalside site was designated. That resulted in an agreement signed in August 2015 to buy the attraction for $250,000. After a few more hiccups, the deal was completed June 27.
Assemblyman Sean Ryan obtained a $600,000 grant to restore the carousel, which will be on the Dunbar Block near the Clinton’s Dish ice cream stand.
In a couple of years, and powered by solar energy, it will open in a permanent structure that will enable year-round enjoyment.
The carousel will operate 13 miles from the factory where it was built and where Herschell-Spillman carousels were once shipped on the Erie Canal to new homes across the country.
Domenick De Angelis Jr., 80, understandably overcome with emotion, summed up his father’s wishes and, for that matter, those of a grateful Buffalo: “I think my father would be glad to have it back where it was made.”