The effort to place a historic carousel at Buffalo’s developing waterfront hasn’t been easy, but it seems now to be circling for a landing. When completed, it will add a unique and irresistible attraction to the people magnet that is Canalside.
With grassroots efforts supported by private interests, foundations and public officials, the $5.3 million project is on track to open next July. It’s been a great effort – though one that still requires funding.
If all goes as planned, the carousel will come on line the same month as the Longshed, a two-story gable-wood structure. Inside, the Buffalo Maritime Center will begin a two- to three-year public participation project to build a 19th century packet boat, to be completed by the Erie Canal’s bicentennial in 2025.
Both new projects will combine with the new Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Explore & More Children’s Museum, offering a memorable experience for families. The addition of the carousel is yet more proof that progress along Buffalo’s once-moribund waterfront is finally where it should be.
The restoration and placement of the carousel, manufactured in 1924 in North Tonawanda, is significant enough that when the National Carousel Association holds its national convention in 2020 in Rochester, attendees will get a chance to see the Buffalo attraction.
Laurie Hauer-LaDuca, president of the Buffalo Heritage Carousel, could hardly contain her enthusiasm in a recent News article. The carousel had been in storage for more than 60 years. A three-row, park-style menagerie carousel, it is one of only about 20 ever produced by the four Herschell-Spillman carousel companies in North Tonawanda.
The effort has included restoration of the carousel’s machinery by a company in Ohio along with work by local volunteers to restore the animals. That job was headed by renowned carousel restoration artist Rosa Patton.
The carousel project still could use an infusion of funds. Buffalo Heritage Carousel has raised $4.3 million. It needs another $1 million, plus an additional $250,000 for a reserve fund.
Key supporters include the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation which spent $250,000 to purchase the carousel in 2015, meeting a deadline set by DeAngelis family members in Massachusetts, who had kept the carousel in storage since 1956. Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, pledged $600,000 in state funding on the useful condition that the ride be accessible and cost no more than $1. Three years ago, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a $1.2 million challenge grant later matched by KeyBank and First Niagara Foundation.
Other supporters include State Sen. Christopher Jacobs, R-Buffalo, who gave $500,000 in state funds; the Russell J. Salvatore Foundation, which gave $250,000; and the Buffalo and Erie County Greenway Fund, which provided $200,000. With so much community support it is easy to imagine success in the “Race to the Finish Line Campaign.”
Every dollar counts toward making Buffalo’s waterfront accessible and memorable.